Wildlife advocates applaud act to uphold the will of Colorado voters
DENVER – Today, Colorado Governor Jared Polis vetoed Senate Bill 23-256, a controversial piece of legislation which would have delayed gray wolf reintroduction in the state pending the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalizing a ‘10(j) rule’ to grant Colorado management authority over the federally endangered species. SB 256 failed to provide any certain date for completion of a 10(j) rule or wolf reintroduction, despite requests for such an amendment. If it became law, the legislation could have delayed wolf reintroduction past December 31, 2023, which is mandated by state law as the reintroduction deadline.
“We are grateful to Governor Polis for vetoing SB-256, and ensuring that wolves will be reintroduced to Colorado by the end of the year,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “For the past six weeks, the conservation community has been aggressively fighting this harmful legislation which would have thwarted the will of Colorado voters.”
The conservation community’s opposition to the bill, even in its final form, was due to the harmful potential unintended consequences of legislation introduced at such a late stage in the federal planning process. The state has been working with the FWS for the past year to write a 10(j) management rule for gray wolves in Colorado which would allow significant management of the federally listed species by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The rule is scheduled to be finalized prior to wolf releases at the end of the year. A change in state law–such as enactment of SB-256–would have thrown an unnecessary wrench into the federal environmental review process, causing delays and potentially requiring additional funding from the state of Colorado.
“Coloradans who voted “Yes” on Proposition 114, believed that their vote to reintroduce wolves into the state by the end of 2023 would be respected by the state agencies and elected officials,” said Larris. “This legislation was a slap in the face to the voting public as well as those Coloradans who spent the past 2.5 years and hundreds of hours working on wolf planning and coordinating with federal officials. We are glad that the real work of planning for wolf reintroduction, conflict mitigation, and restoring this native species to its natural landscape can resume.”