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by Scott Weiser

A stark divide between wolf reintroduction proponents and West Slope ranchers manifested again during the final public input session on the Gray Wolf Restoration and Management Plan being considered by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission Wednesday.

The mention in the plan of possible future wolf hunting angered wolf proponents, who cite a provision in the law classifying wolves as a “non-game species,” which they believe precludes wolves from ever being hunted.

The law states that gray wolves are classified as non-game wildlife. However, the statute also says the commission must manage wolves.

Both citizen speakers and commission members had concerns about the hunting provisions in Phase Four of the plan — with proponents objecting to any mention of future hunting and commissioners not wishing to “tie the hands” of future commissions.

In the end, commissioners agreed to modify the language of the plan to leave long-term management decisions to future wildlife commissions and to the state General Assembly, which can amend the law based on conditions at the time. Unlike many citizen initiatives, Proposition 114 was not a change to the state constitution, it was enacted as a statute, meaning the legislature can amend it.

CPW officials expect to transfer a total of 30 to 50 wolves over three-to-five years and is working toward a minimum population of 150 to 200 wolves.

“I think 150 animals is just too small,” said Adam Kreger, speaking on behalf of Friends of Animals. “The best available science shows that that might not even be enough to sustain a population in our state. Furthermore, the carrying capacity of the Rockies is far more than that — as high as 750 or more.”