DENVER — As the result of a statewide voter-led initiative passed in November 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a rule to establish an experimental population of gray wolves in Colorado under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in support of the state of Colorado’s voter-mandated gray wolf reintroduction program. The proposed rule is now available for public review and is intended to accommodate the state of Colorado’s gray wolf reintroduction planned for late 2023.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) intends to reintroduce the gray wolf in a portion of the species’ historical range in Colorado no later than December 31, 2023. CPW requested the designation of an experimental population under section 10(j) of the ESA to provide the state with increased flexibility to manage wolves once reintroduced in Colorado. The state has also developed a Draft Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan for the reintroduction of the species.
The Service developed the proposed rule and associated draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) at the request of the State of Colorado for its reintroduction and management of the gray wolf following a public scoping period during the summer of 2022. The DEIS evaluates the alternatives considered for this rulemaking process and their environmental and socioeconomic impacts as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The DEIS is also available for public review.
The Service uses a range of partnerships and conservation tools to recover endangered and threatened species. One of these tools, Section 10(j) of the ESA, allows the Service to designate a population of a listed species as experimental if it will be released into natural habitat outside currently established populations. A 10(j) experimental population rule would allow the Service to provide designated management flexibility to the state for reintroduced gray wolves in Colorado. This management flexibility can help ensure co-existence between wolves and affected landowners contributing to the conservation of the species while reducing the potential impacts of reintroduction to stakeholders. Learn more about section 10(j) rules here.
The proposed rule and DEIS will publish in the Federal Register on Friday, February 17, 2023, opening a 60-day public comment period through April 18, 2023. During this time, the Service will seek public input and coordination with the state, Tribes and local partners. Once published in the Federal Register, comments may be submitted online at regulations.gov, Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2022-0100.
Additionally, the Service will host public information meetings throughout Colorado to present information and obtain feedback on the proposed rule and DEIS. Meetings will take place at the following locations:
Grand Junction Convention Center (Grand Junction, CO) on March 14, 2023, at 5:30 p.m.
Moffat County Pavilion (Craig, CO) on March 15, 2023, at 5:30 p.m.
Wattenberg Center (Walden, CO) on March 16, 2023, at 5:30 p.m.
Virtual public meeting on March 22, 2023, at 5:30 p.m. (register here)
Denver Marriott West (Golden, CO) on March 28, 2023, at 5:30 p.m.
For the latest information about this project, please visit the Colorado gray wolf web page. Additional information about the draft rule and DEIS is also available: Q&As: Draft rule & DEIS for proposed Colorado gray wolf experimental population designation.