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Is Colorado ready for wolves?

Dear Editors,

What is the future of wolves in Colorado? That is the question the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) will be trying to answer by the end of this year as it develops a Gray Wolf Management Plan for the state in anticipation of the inevitable migration of wolves into Colorado from Wyoming over the next few years, and from New Mexico and Arizona over the next decade or two. Colorado has been divided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) into two distinct wolf management regions, with all of Colorado north of Interstate 70 included in the Western Distinct Population Segment (Western DPS), and all of Colorado south of Interstate 70 falling into the Southwestern DPS.

With the success of the wolf reintroduction project in Yellowstone National Park, and successful expansion into adjacent areas, the wolves in the Western DPS will be delisted from endangered status as soon as all of the states currently with wolves adopt a management plan that the Fish and Wildlife Service can approve. That delisting process is taking longer than anticipated due to the archaic and biologically unsound plan that Wyoming has proposed, and which Fish and Wildlife Service has had to deny, after approving the plans produced by Idaho and Montana.

Reintroduction of wolves in the Southwestern DPS is at least a decade behind the successful reintroduction program in the northern Rockies, if not more. Thus, the status of gray wolves in the portion of Colorado within the Southwestern DPS will remain endangered, and under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service, for the foreseeable future.

Those are the bureaucratic components of the current question concerning the wolf's future in Colorado. What of the biological and human parts of the equation? For wolves, the biology is the easiest part, for they are the only species currently on the endangered species list not primarily due to loss of a habitat, but because we declared war on them in the past, including here in Colorado. Research done by Fish and Wildlife Service, DOW, and interested outside groups, repeatedly show significant areas of beneficial wolf habitat remains in Colorado, both north and south of I-70.

We have wolves ready to move into Colorado, and we have large areas of good habitats ready to receive them. Are Coloradoans ready for them? Successive surveys, done by both the state and outside groups, indicate that the majority of people in Colorado want free-roaming wolves. The most recent poll, carried out in 2001 by a professional pollster for the Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Project, indicated 68 percent of the Coloradoans contacted supported wolves being in our state!

The stage thus set has Colorado with both significant public support for the wolves and large areas of good habitats within the state ready to support the wolves when they arrive. We have an adjacent population of wolves on our northern border with Wyoming certain to move into Colorado within the near future, and our Division of Wildlife surprisingly planning for that eventuality before it arrives. I commend DOW for having the foresight and courage to initiate the planning process, for any discussion concerning wolves and their future is both emotional and challenging.

The heart of the question concerning the future of wolves in Colorado that DOW, and their citizen advisory group, must ask is whether Colorado reactively continues the worn-out rhetoric and single interest policies of the past, as Wyoming is locked into, or proactively sets a new standard for sustaining and coexisting with wolves in the Rockies. Do we trap and send back to Wyoming any wolves that dares cross into Colorado from the north, or do we set a biologically sound carrying capacity for wolves north of I-70, and let the population build up to that level without interference? Do we continue our archaic opposition to wolves in the southern half of the state, or do we recognize that the sooner we reintroduce wolves south of I-70, the sooner our ecosystems and economy benefit from a sustainable population of wolves no longer needing protection under the Endangered Species Act?

How we answer that question not only defines the future of wolves in Colorado, but defines who we are as a state and a society.

David M. Vackar,


Help homeless with West Nile

(Editors' note: The following letter was originally sent to the Manna Soup Kitchen.)

To Manna members and volunteers,

Colorado's Western Slope is projected to be far worse for West Nile virus this year. Last year, Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Margaret Radford contractedWest Nile virus andwarnedthe general publicof the importance in using mosquito repellent (Colorado Springs Gazette). Ms. Radford had not used repellent on an outing in Pueblo, returning to Colorado Springs sick with the virus.

Although nonprofit Catholic Charities, Marion House,et al, had been contacted to provide repellent for the homeless, all cited lacking funds in denying requests for help. The El Paso County Health Department and Colorado Springs City Council were also contacted, the latter numerous times, butthey too stated they were prevented from supplying repellant due to a lack of funds. Focus on the Family, a Christian nonprofit organization, also did not help after being contacted. However, James Dobson, President of Focus on the Family, weeks later appeared on Fox News regarding the right-to-life case involving the Florida woman on life support, emphasizing the importance of valuing the sanctity of human life.

Although the Colorado SpringsChristian community did not apply that same principle to the homeless populationat risk of death due to WNV (particularly elderly, over 60-year-olds),Durangocanpossibly save livesby acting tomeet a legitimate need of the poor. Durango's City Council and County commissioners have been notified of the homeless'need for repellent, and San Juan Basin County Health Department will consider the issue at its next meeting (according to Commissioner Sheryl Ayers).

However, in case Durango government responds similarly to Colorado Springs, itwould help tobe prepared. If Manna members and volunteers can act to meet the need,perhaps through donations and distribution, itcould be extremely helpful. But if the Christian community also acts similarly to Colorado Springs, and neglects the issue,"Food Not Bombs" membershave shown interest in responding so that none need die when help is available (1John 3:17).

Thank you very much.

Sincerely, Bruce Deile,



Editors’ note: The above editorial cartoon was submitted by Shelly Perlmutter, of
Durango, in lieu of a letter and in response to last week’s Durango Telegraph editorial cartoon by Shan Wells. The cartoon is reprinted with permission from artist Robert Ariail.




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