Wolves in Colorado: The Colorado Plan
This article is a special epilogue to our Wolves in Colorado: Science & Stories series presented by the Institute for Science & Policy at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Center for Collaborative Conservation.
In 2020, Colorado voters passed Proposition 114 directing Colorado Parks and Wildlife to restore and manage gray wolves in Colorado no later than December 31, 2023. The Draft Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan is now complete. What compromises needed to be made to create a plan that would achieve the wolf-restoration objectives of the voter-approved law while also minimizing conflict between livestock and wolves? What was the process for bringing wolf advocates and those opposed to wolf introduction together to create a path forward on such a conflict-rich topic?
Institute Director Kristan Uhlenbrock spoke with an expert panel that provided an overview of the plan, plus explained the difficult issues the Stakeholder Advisory Group navigated, where and how compromises were made, and why certain compromises were worth making to achieve a draft plan. Kristan was joined by co-moderator John Sanderson, Executive Director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University.
Watch a video of this discussion plus all previous episodes on our our YouTube channel.
The Colorado Wolf Management and Restoration Plan
KRISTAN UHLENBROCK: I'm thrilled to be bringing you another conversation in this ongoing series that we've been doing to stay informed and updated around the reintroduction plan of wolves here in Colorado. Before we get started I do want to acknowledge with respect that I and my guests today reside on the traditional lands of 48 Native American tribes who now live throughout the American Southwest, Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, including the Southern Ute, Mountain Ute tribe, the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Apache, Comanche, and the Shoshone tribes.
I also want to acknowledge and thank my co-host and partner in this series, the Center for Collaborative Conservation out of Colorado State University. John and I have been working side by side since early 2020 when the ballot initiative was here in November of 2022 where Colorado voters decided on proposition 114, about whether or not to reintroduce wolves into Colorado. The proposition passed. For those of you looking for some of that background information about how we got here, I highly recommend checking out some of those videos and resources and articles that we pulled together that talked us through that process. We took a lens looking at science, the policy, the human lived experience, and what it means to potentially reintroduce wolves here into the landscape.
Since then we have brought you an after the vote series and now here we are in 2023. There is a draft plan that is now open for public comment through February 22nd. Today's conversation is focused in that process of how we got here and how we as a state with our Stakeholder Advisory Group and many other engagement processes came up with a plan. There was consensus building and overcoming difference of opinions, so this is really about some of that personal hard work that takes place when you need to make compromises and when things need to be negotiated.
JOHN SANDERSON: I'm the director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University. And I'm particularly interested in the process of how we navigate challenging issues, how we work together, how we collaborate around tricky conservation issues, and that's we're going to focus on - the theme of common ground in this dialogue. But inevitably when trying to find that common ground we have to deal with some sticky issues so we'll be talking about some of those sticky issues today as well.
Introducing our guests:
Reid DeWalt works for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He was born and raised in Buena Vista, attended Colorado State University, and after a variety of positions at Colorado Parks and Wildlife he is now the Assistant Director for Wildlife and Natural Resources. Reid has been engaged with Proposition 114 from the very beginning of it emerging as a proposition and then getting passed in 2020.
Bob Chastain is a member of the wolf Stakeholder Advisory Group and has been with the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs Colorado since 1995. He joined the zoo as curator of horticulture and then he has been president and CEO of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo since 2005.
Renee Deal, also a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Group, is from Somerset, Colorado near the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River in Western Colorado. Renee actually left Somerset for a biomedical engineer career in Boulder and Arvada for about 10 years and then decided to return to her family's sheep ranch. Renee has spent about 15 years teaching preschool and secondary math while also working her sheep ranch and now she works on the sheep ranch full-time.
JOHN: Reid, can you remind us what Proposition 114 is and then what process did the agency follow as the lead agency on Prop 114 and why? And lastly could you give us a brief overview of the key elements of the plan?
REID DEWALT: I think most folks know Proposition 114 was voted on November 3rd in 2020 - seems like just yesterday at some points. That proposition, which is now state law, directs our Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to restore and manage grey wolves in Colorado by December of 2023. 114 requires a couple things within it and I'm going to give a broad overview. The first thing that we did was hold statewide hearings to acquire information in developing the plan, and it was two summers ago that we held over 40 meetings (virtually and in person) across the state to acquire information from the public. It also requires us to develop a plan to restore gray wolves and to manage them. Restoration is to take place on the western slope of Colorado and there are reporting requirements that are in the plan, and an annual update to the legislature the general assignment assembly of how the project is going. Wolves are to be introduced by December of 2023 so that's a definite end date or for wolves to be on the ground.
A couple other things that the law generally requires for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to oversee the restoration and management of wolves includes the distribution of state funds to be available for the prevention and control of damage to livestock - so prevention and then compensation to livestock producers. Then we will continue to update that plan and get information to continue to adapt that plan and develop it as we learn more about wolves in Colorado. There are some specifics within there but that's really the large majority of what it requires.
We broke down the process into what we considered four key elements. First is our restoration logistics, so that's how we are going to do this, the nuts and bolts of how would get the wolves, where would they come from, and how we would treat the wolves. Really the day-to-day of how to actually do the project. Another part that we consider a major element is what's called impact-based management, and that means wolves should be allowed to do what they naturally do and all the benefits that come with them should be allowed to happen. There's a whole way of doing that and I encourage folks to look at the plan to see all the ways that we would manage those impacts. The third part that we really focused on is that prevention and compensation plan for livestock producers. Damages or losses to livestock are a major part of the plan and one the commission continues to talk about. The fourth thing we really focused on throughout the process was the education and outreach about wolves in Colorado. It's a species being restored to the state and one that folks are very interested in. We've started that and we continue to look for how we're going to educate and outreach - seminars like this are prime example of how we intend to do that going forward.
Obviously it's a huge undertaking and there's lots of interest across the state and even nationally and internationally it's a big deal. It's the first time a voter-led initiative like this has happened. Our intent was to get it right and so what we really wanted to do was start off with those public input meetings. Then a key part of the planning process has been the creation of a Stakeholder Advisory Group and then a Technical Working Group. The purpose of the Stakeholder Advisory Group (which there are two members on today's conversation) was to gather the diverse set of voices from across the state from all kinds of people that are interested in in wolves, from those who really want to see wolves on the ground and restored to those who have concerns about it and may not want to see that happen, and the whole spectrum in between. We also had County Commissioners on the Stakeholder Advisory Group, we had those who were in the ranching business, outfitting business, we had conservationists and folks that definitely like wolves and want to see them restored.
The Technical Working Group was made up of scientific experts on the technical aspects of wolf management, those who have done it before. We really relied on folks from the northern Rocky Mountains in the Yellowstone area and the states of Montana and Oregon on there, and we had a lot of the federal agencies represented as well since there's federal agency impacts. That helped us build some of the science around the plan and to give those inputs. Those groups met for over 15 months. We concluded that last summer and then those inputs from both groups were put into the creation of the plan that is out for comment. That's our draft plan. Once we did that we presented that plan on December 9th to our commission - it's actually on CPW's YouTube page - for four hours. Then we've kicked off a series of five meetings to hear public input, and after we get all that input we'll take that and go back and kind of redline the plan, and then we'll present it again to the commission for hopefully final adoption. We'll have a meeting in April and then we'll have one in May and hopefully there's a vote in May where the commission approves the plan and then we can get on with the business of actually getting the physical wolves and releasing them in December. I encourage people to go to our website to really look at all that information, there's way more detail.
The Stakeholder Advisory Group
JOHN: Bob, please share a little bit more about who you are and the work that you do and then tell us if you applied to be part of the Stakeholder Advisory Group.
BOB: Rather than do another introduction of myself let me tell you a little bit about the zoo because it's relevant to the conversation. Then I'll tell you about why I decided to join the stakeholder group. So acknowledging up front that there's lots of different opinions about zoos and aquariums but if you would think about some of the things that I'm going to tell you hopefully you would acknowledge that we do have a place in conservation.
The Cheyenne Zoo has 800,000 people come to visit every year. That's been growing over the last 20 years from about 350,000 people, so not insignificant in terms of the growth. People want to have a connection with wildlife and wild places and we provide a place to do that. We have about 20,000 member households and we have this big commitment to make your visit to the zoo actually help conservation in the field. We do that through a lot of ways but one way is our Quarters for Conservation program where we take a portion of your admission into the zoo and we apply it directly to field conservation. I'm not talking about taking care of our animals here, I'm talking about people who are actually working in multiple countries. About every 18 months we raise about a million dollars for that program, and we have raised over four million dollars since we started it. We currently breed two endangered species, the black-footed ferret and a Wyoming toad for the U.S fish and wildlife service. We've done work in Ecuador, Indonesia, Panama, Kenya, all places where we regularly work now. We're a small zoo from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums standpoint but we were recently ranked third in USA Today on the top 10 zoos in the United States, so we have a good reputation. We also are home to Mexican gray wolves that were part of the reintroduction process many years ago. All this to say that while we're centered in an urban area, we do care about this balance between rural and urban. We care about the intrinsic value of wildlife but the way in which we try to do that is to make sure we can bring people along and they don't have to agree with us on everything.
When it came time to think about whether wolves should be involved in Colorado, after considerable thought we decided that we would help gather signatures and we gathered over 15,000 signatures to help get wolves on the ballot and then another 1,700 signatures from non-registered voters. We also gathered signatures from people who were against the reintroduction of wolves so that we could get a sense of what was going on. The reason that I joined the Stakeholder Advisory Group is their early polling showed that Colorado was ready for wolves to be reintroduced and we had been waiting for the culture to be ready for that. When the vote was done, as we know it was very split, and we were conflicted that Colorado was still so split on the issue. So it was at that point we committed to trying to tell the truth the best we could through the entire process, understanding both sides. That's where I met some amazing people like Renee. We just wanted to see if we could take a crack at acknowledging that wildlife has extrinsic value but that rural communities and private lands matter to wildlife.
JOHN: Renee, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and why did you want to be on the Stakeholder Advisory Group?
RENEE DEAL: I have a pretty diverse background - had about three careers in my lifetime. Ranching is really important to me and my family. My great-grandfather started raising cattle in 1928 and we were part of the first grazing permits in Gunnison National Forest from the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934. We've had that same permit since then but since it was a cattle permit we converted to sheep in about 1976. We take our role very seriously in responsibly managing that forest area. Fast forward to the fourth generation - I made a commitment to come back to help out on the ranch and try to advance our ranching heritage and grow and change with the different tides.
I applied to be on the stakeholder group for one, sheep ranchers kind of get a post-script right down in the bottom. You hear a lot about cattle and cattle ranching when in reality sheep are more vulnerable and susceptible to predation. We already have high levels of predation with other animals and so I thought it was really important that we had representatives from the sheep industry. I appreciate that CPW recognized that and allowed me to have a seat and be a voice for the sheep industry. People in my industry were not real excited about the proposition passing, but I was actually surprised that it was such a slim margin. It was almost like a gut punch that it was so close because that also flagged to me that this is really going to be contentious.
I'm also an educator so it's important to me for people to understand the different sides of the issue. It's also really important to recognize that there is that urban and rural divide that we talk about and that divide can only be closed through education and outreach. It was important for me to commit myself to helping not only share my voice as a sheep rancher, but to also help people understand the kinds of issues that that we'll be dealing with. It's really personal and emotional for me and it put me way outside my comfort zone because I do have a little bit of a social anxiety but it was a great learning experience. I want to be part of the solution, I didn't want to be part of the loud angry voices. I wanted to be part of helping come up with workable solutions so that's why I joined.
KRISTAN: Tell us little bit more about this group coming together because there's something really unique and special not only about establishing this group and the important advisory role it had. How did you even begin building those relationships? What I've been hearing is the working relationship that ended up happening across some people in the Stakeholder Advisory Group was such a useful way for this process to unfold. I would love to hear some of those stories or examples of where you started to build those relationships and thinking about that through the lens of stereotypes.
RENEE: I remember walking into that first meeting and just being like, 'Oh my gosh how am I gonna…", and then listening to all the introductions - and I had read all the bios of everyone who was on the group beforehand. I was very skeptical, to be honest, that we were going to be able to accomplish much. I knew we were coming from really disparate view viewpoints. They started out asking pretty basic questions like: what's our goal here, what does success look like? That was really interesting because immediately we came out with it. I think a lot of us came onto the group really motivated with a make-sure-you-hear-me kind of an attitude so that was hard to temper. I think we also came to it going "let's get some work done" right away and it took me a little while to realize that we weren't going to get anything done until we did build those relationships. I was not buying into that - I was like, "Nope we just need to get some work done, come on it's taking forever." The first three meetings felt like we got nothing done and then I started to realize that the whole process was about building those relationships, breaking down those stereotypes, and getting to know people on a personal level.
Behind every person with a really strong viewpoint is a personal story as to why they have those viewpoints and so it was important to break down those walls. I think what started those positive relationships was when John Howard, who lives in Grand Junction, had a get together before the meeting and he invited all of us to his house for barbecue chicken. We were able to just visit with each other as people outside of the group, and that was so valuable that CPW picked up on that. So then they started organizing dinners outside of the meetings. We were just talking about our kids and our hobbies and I made it a point to go talk to people and approach people and ask them questions about their personal life rather than constantly focusing on the wolf issue. I think that was really important for us to all see that there's real people with real feelings behind all of that. That helped build that first step so that then we could have respectful conversations with each other in these meetings, and that was what got hard. We had a few contentious moments because it really is hard to see somebody else's viewpoint when it is so different than your own, but it was important to keep an open mind about all that.
BOB: From my perspective, our organization is currently reading a book by Brene Brown, Dare to Lead, and there's a quote, "People people people are people people people," and so you realize pretty quickly on the Stakeholder Advisory Group some of us voted for reintroduction and some of us voted no. We had people who were married people, who are not, people with kids, people whose dogs were their kids, we had volunteer firefighters, lawyers, we had small landowners and large landowners, people who dedicated their lives to educating people about wolves, and people who would dedicate their lives to running the best ranch that they possibly could. So we really had a huge diverse group of people and I've realized that people are often afraid of change because it's uncertain. And they're often afraid of change because they know that change might threaten their way of life on both sides of this topic. We've all invested incredible amounts of energy into having our life reflect the values that we see, so that's challenging. And then humans have a real difficult time trying to focus on getting it right instead of being right, and we often care quite a lot about humans being right. Then the last thing is that trusting people who don't think like us is really hard, and so acknowledging that Keystone (Policy Center) spent a fair amount of time trying to make sure that the group could work together in setting some standards, having some agreed upon values, and those sorts of things that were that were important to the group.
JOHN: Keystone Policy Center was the organization that was hired to facilitate this entire process.
JOHN: The intention right now per 114 is to be bringing wolves to Colorado in December. How many and where?
REID: We're looking at a three-year period of bringing in between 30 and 50 (depending on what's obtainable from other states where we're gonna get the animals) and we'll start with that now. This all needs to be approved by the commission as well. We anticipate in a model that wolves will do very well in Colorado and they'll expand quickly, so we're looking at the advice of our technical working group. When we release wolves they will move and the literature shows that between 60 and 70 miles is what their average dispersal distance would be. So when we release them here we're going to do what's called a hard release. We're not going to do a soft release where they're going to be in pens for any time like they did in Yellowstone. I have the advice of all the folks on the Technical Group and they feel that a hard release is much better on the animals physically, and they'll do fine pairing up, meeting up, and developing packs. We focused obviously on the Western Slope per the statute and then we put a 60 mile buffer around the state. We mapped it so that gives us what we're calling the "donut hole map." Then we did some modeling with researchers at CSU to look at the best habitat and then we put in conflicts potential with ag and some other things in there. We are going to release those animals on state lands or if there was to be a private landowner that came forward and offered, release on their land within that donut hole.
JOHN: Renee, I think there's a decent chance you'll be within 100 miles or so of wolves being released. And there's a decent chance that before long you will see some on the landscape around you. Can you share a little bit about how your view of their presence changed through these personal interactions you had with others on the Stakeholder Advisory Group? Has there been a change in the way that you think about them or talk about them in the community that you're a part of?
RENEE: Actually our grazing allotments are in that top reintroduction area donut. We're just south of White River National Forest so we're in the southern part of that donut. I think being a part of the Stakeholder Advisory Group helped me calm down because I felt like I could be a part of it. And honestly it wasn't necessarily as much about the wolf as it was about this whole concept of saying that it was to be on the Western Slope and voted on. To me that was a lot more contentious of an issue than even the wolf because as a Western Slope rural resident it felt like the urban populations were mandating something on us. And whether that would have been the wolf or some sort of water issue or some other issue, that invoked a lot of feelings. So I came into it bringing those feelings with me, and also knowing that we're going to have challenges with the wolves, but also feeling like this is something that was kind of shoved down our throat. I think it helped me separate that a little bit so that I could really focus on what the challenges specific to the wolves are and what we're going to do. Also realizing that this is an issue we would have to deal with eventually anyway since they're naturally migrating here, so it's something we'd have to deal with - that also brought some other perspectives. Maybe my bear predation and my lion predation will decrease if wolves push them out, I don't know. There haven't been studies that have said that, and there's actually been studies that said the opposite of that with lions. It gave me an opportunity to learn a lot more about what the realities are in other states and some of those weren't good realities for me to hear as a sheep rancher. But it also gave me that first hand look of how we're going to deal with some things and a realization when everyone talks about non-lethal mitigation and what are some of the things we can do. We're already doing a lot of these things that people are saying are these novel conflict mitigation techniques and so I think that was good to realize as a sheep rancher we're set up with already with a lot of those tools.
It was important also to help me reach out the cattle industry and be able to share our experiences with conflict mitigation with other predators with them. I also saw like this as a unique kind of coming together with the cattle and sheep industry because in the past the cattle and sheep Industries have had conflicts. It was interesting to see us come together and say that we're all in this together and asking what can we do to help each other out going forward. I've never thought of the wolf as the bad guy - the wolf is more wildlife and I love wildlife. I love bears, lions, and elk, and I would like to see a wolf in the wild. I think it'd be really cool but it brings challenges to my industry specifically, so there's another level of some conflicts that we'll have to deal with. So I don't think my attitude on the wolf specifically has changed but my attitude on people who push that ideology did change. I was able to see their motivations and why they feel this way and why they believe these things. That helped me understand their motivations a little bit better.
BOB: That question was hard because I'm not sure the people on the stakeholder group ever felt like our job was to change each other's minds, our job was to write a plan that could reintroduce wolves by 2023 in a way that met the conditions of the law. This included things like compensation so of course there were difficulties reaching agreement. But seeing people as people is the way you start building some trust so that you can compromise in order to get the plan moving forward. I believe there's a lot of dialogue around issues that are important but they don't necessarily need to be resolved before wolves can be reintroduced because there's some mechanics that need to be done and there's conditions of the law that need to be met. An example is 18 straight months of listening to public comment, reading public comment, attending meetings all over the state - there's hundreds or thousands of people hours in this plan. There's two things I heard that are true and one is that the rural community wants to be valued and respected for what they do for the world and they want to feel like their voice matters even though in many cases in a vote their voice gets overturned. Still they bring something to the table and they want to be heard, and then they want an easy to understand Compensation Plan that makes sense.
And then it felt like the people who voted yes for wolves wanted wolves to be reintroduced to Colorado by the end of 2023. The federal re-listing of them has made that a challenge because we had to stop and do this other federal program, which is really expensive and takes about a year so it's not insignificant. The pro-wolf people wanted to see wolves on the ground and then they were probably a little bit torque that it took so long for it to happen because wolves have been gone from Colorado since the 40s. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with those two things, I'm just saying that's what I heard. If you look at public comment now, they're falling into four categories and I'm going to say most of these don't have to be solved before we can write a great plan and CPW can get to work. The first is that the wolf advocate community doesn't think there should ever be hunting of wolves and they think that was clear in the law. Whether that's true or not, the whole political state of Colorado, and the Commissioners in Colorado, we will all change by the time they're delisted federally and delisted from the state. Whether you like it or not I don't know that it has to be solved before the plan gets done, so I think in some cases we should focus on the plan and then a little bit of what we want.
The pro wolf community had a lot of conversation about the use of public land for grazing. I don't think that issue has to be solved before we put wolves on the ground. And then people who probably voted no are probably people in the hunter and agricultural community and they live by this North American model. You don't have to agree with that North American model right now, but that is how CPW works. The final was the ranching community was vocal about what they wanted to be able to control wolves that were problematic for a long time. The conservation community said, "We think predation will be low when wolves come into Colorado" but then they came in and started some predation problems in North Park, so all that changed. I think we should focus at this stage on what we need to do to approve a plan so that we can get started on reintroducing the wolves to Colorado, not whether we agree on a topic.
KRISTAN: There's a couple audience questions. Could you take them real quick for us to clarify a few things, and then we'll come back to some of the process stuff?
How is this plan to be funded?
Have any private landowners offered up land to be used for reintroducing wolves?
REID: Right now the funding we have comes from the general assembly. The state legislature has given us around two million dollars for the funding of this plan. The state budget is not forever and ever, and you have to go back for an annual appropriation so there's lots of discussion about that. We believe our funding is good for the immediate future but as we go forward we really need to make sure that the funding is strong there. There were lots of discussions in the process about that and a lot of people had different ideas, but right now the plan is to stay with the general assembly. On the question about if anybody with private land has come forward - not at this time. It's still an option but right now we have not had a person come forward with that.
Working Together on Hard Issues
KRISTAN: I've heard a lot of empathy and obviously the language that we use when we have a conversation can potentially alienate someone or determine how that conversation flows from there. Some examples are anti vs pro-wolf or urban vs rural. We hear these dynamics playing out not only here in this wolf issue but across the state as it relates to so many bigger issues. I'm wondering if either of you have a lesson about that, of either a growth experience for yourself or something that you'd love to share with the audience about a takeaway when people think about connecting and communicating on these hard issues.
BOB: The sorts of epiphanies that helped me bridge the gap from unequivocally I would like to see wolves in Colorado and unequivocally I think large privately held land most often- I should say owned by large ranches - is critical for winter wildlife habitat in particular. There was an F Scott Fitzgerald quote that says, "The mark of true intelligence is to be able to hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time." So I tried to reflect that. An example of where I saw things breaking down was when people came in and made public comments about ranching communities wanting to slaughter either wolves or slaughter sheep or cows that were under their care. The use of the word "slaughter" was very hard. I have a thousand animals at the zoo and I'm in the business of taking care of them. Sometimes they get old and have health problems and we have to consider management euthanasia here that we take exceptionally seriously. We're not talking about not wanting them anymore so we're going to euthanize them, but much like you would treat a pet. We feel a heartfelt connection with the animals that we take care of. So I don't think slaughter really embodies that word. If you think about that on the opposite end, the United States is struggling with being more and more diverse. If you listen to public dialogue we want that to be true. But Renee raises sheep and lots of Americans don't eat sheep, but lots of ethnic groups in America do eat sheep. We can't say that we want to have this ethnic group but then not provide something that's really important to their culture. Animals are dying in there but that's a radically different dialogue when you're made to choose.
JOHN: If we could broaden the view a little bit to the questions about navigating difficult polarized questions overall. Colorado's continuing to grow and we hear a lot about the urban/rural divide. Just this morning I was looking back at the 2020 Conservation in the West Poll, which is a poll that's done by Colorado College. That poll showed that nearly 70% of Coloradoans call themselves a strong conservationist and another 26% consider themselves a moderate conservationist. Almost 100% of us in Colorado consider ourselves conservationists, but as our populations grow we've got a lot of tough issues we're looking at. Land use issues, forest health, wildfire issues, and water issues which we hear about every single day. What is something that you've taken away from the process of navigating wolves, one statement or one suggestion for how the rest of us think about navigating these polarizing challenging issues as we move forward trying to maintain the Colorado that we all love.
BOB: This concept of when did we quit looking at people holistically as people and boil them down to a single issue. Did you vote for wolves or did you not vote for wolves? We struggle in this country with being able to see people as a people but then acknowledge that they might have a different opinion. When did a good and ethical person who disagrees with me stop becoming a good and ethical person? And finally, I've kept this North Star throughout because this is what I was trying to do when I was listening to all sides and it was a very clear image of what success looks like. At the end of the day we'll know when we've done a good job because a rancher in the middle of nowhere with the means and ability to end a wolf's life will choose to let that wolf walk through their private property or their public agrazement lot allotment without shooting it because he or she was treated fairly enough during the process that they're willing to give this whole experience a chance to succeed. You don't have to agree with me to let that wolf walk because I heard you well enough. This whole thing is going to play out in the middle of nowhere, 20 miles from the nearest town.
RENEE: I think some of the public came in for comment to intentionally make us feel bad and that was unfortunate. Bob made a statement that words matter and words do matter. We are all people trying to do the best we can here in our lives, raising our kids and respecting our cultures, so I want to just end with this concept of coexistence. The definition of coexistence is to exist together at the same time or in the same place, and I think we need to think about that when people talk about coexistence that aren't actively coexisting in the same place. It's a very different thing when you coexist at the same time because that just means somewhere parallel to you. Ranchers coexist on a daily basis with livestock but the concept of coexistence also is a state in which two or more groups are living together while respecting their differences and resolving conflicts non-violently. It creates this mutualism but unfortunately humans are the only ones that are able to make that conscious decision to not be violent. The wolves don't make that conscious decision because they're operating on their biology, so if they become violent it's not something they're doing mean-spiritedly, but it's also not something they're going to be able to curb. It has to be all on our end and what I want people to understand is that we need to look at this not from the 30,000 foot view (that's important too), but we need to look at the big picture and see what are all the unintended consequences. Who are the people down there on the ground, what are they dealing with, and how are they able to resolve it? I think the best thing that we can do is educate ourselves, open our minds, and open our hearts to listening to other people in other perspectives. I think we have to come outside of ourselves and be open to other people's viewpoints so that we can come up with solutions that work for everybody. It's not going to be perfect but we can't be so one-sided that we lose sight of the fact that there are people on the other side too that are doing the best they can.
REID: As a scientist, the biological side of science is my comfort zone, but as I've learned through this stakeholder advisory and public input process that the intersection of biology and the social sciences is so vital. I look forward to managing wolves and working with wolves throughout the rest of my career, and what's going to be so important is that we continue to bring the social part of this and meet it with the biological side. CPW has 125 years of managing wildlife really well, we know we're going to do a good job with this.
The Institute for Science & Policy is committed to publishing diverse perspectives in order to advance civil discourse and productive dialogue. Views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, or its affiliates.