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Cattle ranchers don't want Montana wolves moved to Colorado

| March 11, 2022 7:00 AM

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — The Montana Stockgrowers Association has asked its state wildlife agency to reject any requests to capture wolves in Montana to be transplanted in Colorado, after voters there narrowly passed a wolf reintroduction plan.

The Montana cattle ranchers say Colorado ranchers don't have management tools in place to protect their property from wolves, the Fort Collins Coloradoan reported.

"Giving Colorado wolves from Montana isn't going to solve the wolf issues in our state, but it will significantly impact livestock producers in Colorado," Jim Steinbeisser, the association's president, said in the January letter. "MSGA represents ranching families throughout the state, and we have experienced first-hand the impacts this apex predator has on our family ranches."

Wolves killed 64 head of cattle in Montana in 2021, according to the Montana Livestock Loss Board.

Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, said he understands the gesture from the Montana Stockgrowers Association is symbolic, but said it supports Colorado ranchers.

"It is meaningful for the right reason because their comments support an industry that does not have adequate protection in place for wolves," said Fankhauser, who added that the two organizations have worked together for years regarding wolves. "It makes a statement regardless of if wolves actually come from Montana."

Eric Odell, species conservation manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, has told the Coloradoan newspaper that the state's preference is to capture wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for reintroduction. The three states have an estimated total of 3,000 wolves and hunting them is legal.

Preliminary plans call for eight to 10 wolves to be introduced in Colorado each year over a three- to four-year period. Then officials would assess how the program is going. The voter-approved measure mandates reintroduction start no later than the end of 2023 and also requires the state to compensate ranchers for livestock losses caused by gray wolves.

Greg Lemon, spokesperson for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the agency has not received an official request for wolves from Colorado.

Cameron Mulrony, the executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association, and Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said their organizations have not issued official statements on the Montana Stockgrowers Association letter. However, both said it is likely their organizations would disapprove of wolves being captured in their states and released in Colorado.