DENVER (KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis has vetoed a bill that could have added years of delays to wolf reintroduction in Colorado.
In a veto letter dated Tuesday, Polis said the proposed law “is unnecessary and undermines the voters’ intent.” It would have prohibited the state-led wolf reintroduction until certain federal conditions were final, which could have been years from now if they were challenged in court.
“The management of the reintroduction of gray wolves into Colorado is best left to the Parks and Wildlife Commission as the voters explicitly mandated,” Polis wrote.
Colorado Farm Bureau said it was “gravely disappointed” by the veto. The group said the proposed delays “afforded ranchers the tools they needed to achieve conservation success and mitigate wolf-livestock conflict,” according to a statement.
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association released a similar rebuke.
“Unfortunately, Governor Polis’ choice to veto this bill will ultimately harm Colorado’s agriculture community and eliminate needed assurance for producers,” CCA president Philip Anderson said in a statement.
Gray wolves and the Endangered Species Act
The bill would have prohibited Colorado wolf reintroduction until the gray wolf population was deemed a “non-essential experimental population,” giving Colorado management authority over the federally endangered animals. This happens under what’s known as the “10J rule” of the Endangered Species Act. It also would have required a final, federal environmental impact study.
Wildlife advocates said the proposed law could have triggered lawsuits that would hold off reintroduction while court battles play out — potentially for years.
“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,” Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director for animal advocacy group WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement. “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.”
Polis said Colorado has already “invested significant resources” into the reintroduction process. That includes a $1 million commitment for the federal rulemaking process, which is set to finish this year.
Voters in 2020 passed Proposition 114 to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado. The law also requires compensation to livestock owners for any wolf-related losses.
After extensive public outreach, Colorado’s wolf reintroduction plan was unanimously adopted on May 3. Wolf reintroduction is scheduled to begin by Dec. 31, as required by law.