DENVER — To assist the state of Colorado in their reintroduction of gray wolves into the state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is initiating the process to develop an experimental population rule to provide the authority and flexibility needed to manage the reintroduced wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
While evaluating the state’s request to provide for management of reintroduced wolves as an experimental population under the ESA, the Service must complete an environmental review of the potential impacts under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) framework through the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This announcement is inviting the public to help inform the scope of the EIS at this early stage in the process.
As the result of a statewide voter-led initiative passed in November 2020, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is responsible for reintroducing the gray wolf in a portion of the species’ historical range in Colorado no later than December 31, 2023. Since the gray wolf was relisted as an endangered species in February 2022, CPW has requested the designation of an experimental population under section 10(j) of the ESA to provide increased management flexibility.
The Service uses a range of partnerships and conservation tools to recover endangered and threatened species. Section 10(j) allows the Service to designate a population of a listed species as experimental if it will be released into habitat outside the species’ current range. A 10(j) rule would help CPW manage the potential impacts of gray wolf reintroduction to stakeholders while ensuring that reintroduction and management of wolves is likely to be successful and contribute to conservation of the species. Learn more about section 10(j) rules here.
The EIS will consider the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the potential 10(j) rule and associated management flexibility. The Service is opening a 30-day public comment period for input about the scope of the EIS beginning July 21, 2022; comments can be submitted through regulations.gov. Additionally, the Service is hosting the following public meetings during which the public can provide comments:
August 2, 2022 – Gunnison County Fairgrounds, Gunnison, CO, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
August 3, 2022 – Silverthorne Pavilion, Silverthorne, CO, 6:00 - 8:00 PM
August 4, 2022 – Moffat County High School, Craig, CO, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
August 10, 2022 – Virtual meeting, 6:00-8:00 PM | Register here
The next steps will be for the Service to consider the comments in developing the EIS and alternatives, and to draft a 10(j) rule. Once the draft EIS and draft 10(j) rule are complete there will be a separate public notice and comment period.
For more information about the management of gray wolves in Colorado, please visit the Colorado Ecological Services Field Office webpage.