by Jason Blevins, originally published in The Colorado Sun

The last-ditch lawsuit filed by Colorado ranchers to block an underway plan to release wolves got fiery on Wednesday.

A flurry of filings by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and two animal groups blasted the Colorado Cattlemen’s and Gunnison County Stockgrowers’ associations, setting the stage for a Thursday hearing in federal court.

The ranchers are asking U.S. District Court Judge Regina Rodriguez to issue an injunction and temporary restraining order blocking Colorado Parks and Wildlife from releasing wolves on the Western Slope. The agency has wildlife officials in Oregon right now working to capture five wolves and fly them to Colorado to release in the next two weeks on private or state land somewhere in Eagle, Grand or Summit counties. (CPW will not put wolves on federal land but the predators will certainly roam into national forests on the Western Slope where ranchers lease land for grazing cattle.)

CPW in a filing on Wednesday agreed to not release wolves until after the hearing on Thursday.

Friends of Animals also asked the court to allow it to participate in the defense of wolf reintroduction. The Connecticut-based animal advocacy group has sued Colorado Parks and Wildlife twice over hunter-friendly rules for State Wildlife Areas as part of what the group calls its “persistent campaign to transform wildlife agencies to protect wild animals and not just the interests of hunters and fishers.”