Officials to explain wolf plan

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At a meeting last March, Northwest Colorado residents expressed skepticism that a wolf management group would develop a plan that treated ranchers fairly.

On Monday, the skeptics and supporters can voice their opinions about the group's draft plan.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is hosting a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Shadow Mountain Clubhouse to present the group's recommendations to the public and accept public comment about the plan.

"It's really an opportunity for people to come in and hear a presentation, but get their questions answered, too," DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said.

The wolf working group, composed of ranchers, sportsmen, local government representatives, biologists and environmentalists, created recommendations for how to manage wolves that migrate to Colorado from Yellowstone National Park, where wolves have been reintroduced.

The group did not make recommendations about whether wolves should be reintroduced in Colorado. But they may reconvene at a later date to make recommendations regarding wolf reintroduction.

In Colorado, wolf management depends on what side of the Interstate 70 corridor the wolf is on. North of I-70, Northern wolves are listed as threatened, a status that gives ranchers the right to shoot wolves if they are threatening livestock. If someone encounters a wolf threatening wildlife on public land, that person only has the right to harass the wolf. South of I-70, the Mexican wolf is listed as endangered. Wolves in the region only can be killed if they are threatening a human.

But this likely will change when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes Northern wolves' protection under the Endangered Species Act. Fish and Wildlife has been expected to de-list the Northern wolf for some time, but the action has been delayed because Wyoming has yet to create a wolf management plan that Fish and Wildlife officials will approve. Montana and Idaho have created approved plans.

When wolves are removed from the endangered species list, the DOW will be responsible for managing them in Colorado. The management style will be based in large part on the working group's recommendations.

The DOW will accept public comment until March 4. The Wildlife Commission will review the comments after the comment period closes, and the commission will vote on the plan in May.

Anyone who cannot attend Monday's meeting can comment on the plan by mailing their comments to the Meridian Institute, P.O. Box 1829, Dillon, CO 80435. Comments also can be e-mailed using a comment form that can be found at http://www2.merid.org/ graywolf /commentform.php.

In the past year, the presence of one wolf in Colorado has been confirmed. A female wolf was found dead on I-70. It had migrated to Colorado from Yellowstone.

But the DOW estimates that in Northern Colorado, it's most likely wolves will be located in portions of Moffat, Routt, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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