A last-ditch effort by two Colorado livestock organizations to delay wolf reintroductions was thwarted by a federal judge’s ruling.
Judge Regina M. Rodriguez, an appointee of President Biden, ruled late Friday night, signaling the continuation of plans to release wolves on the western side of Colorado this month. The ruling came after a nearly three-hour hearing on Thursday in Denver.
“The court finds that, while the petitioners who have lived and worked on the land for many years are understandably concerned about possible impacts of this reintroduction, neither these possible impacts nor their assertions … are sufficient for this court to grant the extraordinary relief they seek,” Rodriguez wrote in the 19-page ruling.
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Gunnison County Stockgrowers filed suit on Dec. 10 against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, alleging that the National Environmental Policy Act was violated.
The groups claimed that their concerns about wolf-livestock conflict were not resolved as the wolf management plan was developed. Neither an environmental assessment nor an impact statement on the environmental consequences of wolf reintroduction or the state was conducted.
The judge agreed. “During the hearing, all parties acknowledged that FWS has never completed an analysis under NEPA for any of the past renewals or for any cooperative agreements that FWS has in Colorado or any of the other 49 states,” Rodriguez wrote.
With the judge’s go-ahead, the state said that it’s planning to release five wolves from Oregon as soon as today. The first release is slated for private or state land in Eagle, Grand, or Summit counties.
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Wolf-rancher conflicts are already here
The Colorado Sun reported that the day before the hearing, rancher Don Gittleson reported that he’d found a calf with wounds on her hindquarters and neck.
The timing couldn’t be better (or worse), with wolves injuring livestock in the state the day before the hearing. And, Gittleson points out that if confirmed, wildlife officials could be killing wolves at the same time they’re being introduced.
The rancher says that he’s already lost seven cows to wolves that came into Colorado from Wyoming, and he suspects that this attack was made by No. 2101, one of the collared wolves connected to killing dogs and other livestock in Jackson County.
Once the kill is confirmed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the rancher told the news outlet that he will ask them to kill it.
»Related: Wisconsin farm family talks about living a wolf-attack nightmare