Today, a U.S. District Court Judge denied a request by the Colorado livestock industry to block imminent wolf reintroductions to the state. Gunnison County Stockgrowers’ Association and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association filed a lawsuit on Monday against Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking to stop wolf releases that are slated to occur this month. The livestock groups also requested an immediate restraining order against the reintroduction effort, which has been years in the making and results from a voter-approved ballot measure in November 2020.
The court ruled against the restraining order, citing “[d]ata submitted to the Court by the Conservation Groups, and not rebutted by Petitioners, demonstrat[ing] that in other states with hundreds or thousands of wolves, predation affects mere fractions of a percent of total livestock populations” (order at 16). Conservation and animal welfare groups who moved to intervene in the lawsuit praised the court’s decision and vowed to continue fighting the industry’s lawsuit.
“We are looking forward to wolves being returned to their rightful place in Colorado,” said Delaney Rudy of Western Watersheds Project. “The agencies went through the full and proper process, and while none of us are 100% happy with the management plans for wolves in Colorado, trying to thwart the will of the voters with this last minute maneuver was poor form. We’re glad the court saw through it.”
“Livestock interests hostile to wolf coexistence are abusing the law to get their way, even when the state bent over backward to accommodate them in how wolf reintroduction — scientifically supported and democratically decided through a ballot measure — is accomplished,” said Kelly Nokes, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “The court made the right call here denying the livestock associations’ request to block wolf releases before the case is even heard. I will work on behalf of our clients to move wolf reintroduction forward in Colorado.”
“Rejecting this unfounded restraining order request is excellent news,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff have spent thousands of hours on this process, hundreds of them to ensure that livestock owner interests are heard. The court agrees that the public interest in seeing wolves reintroduced by the end of 2023, as intended by ballot measure and statue, is a priority”
“I’m relieved that the court saw right through the livestock industry’s self-serving and meritless arguments,” said Allison Henderson, Southern Rockies director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Both science and Colorado voters have very clearly told us that wolves belong here. Once wolves are reintroduced, they’ll help restore balance to our state’s ecosystems.”
“This meritless lawsuit is nothing more than a desperate attempt by those hostile to wolves to circumvent the will of Colorado voters at the eleventh hour,” said Nicholas Arrivo, managing attorney for the Humane Society of the United States. “Wolves belong in Colorado, and we stand ready to ensure their restoration can continue as planned.”
“The court’s opinion vindicates that the lawsuit ignores reality,” said Tom Delehanty, an attorney with Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “State and federal personnel put years of work into preparing for wolves’ return to Colorado, and this misguided attack on that process has rightly failed.”
The nonprofit organizations are represented in this litigation by Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center.