Federal court rejects ranchers’ lawsuit to pause Colorado wolf reintroduction

Western Gray Wolf 25 Years
Jacob W. Frank/National Park Service via AP
This Nov. 7, 2017, photo released by the National Park Service shows a wolf in the road near Artist Paintpots in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.

A federal judge denied a last-ditch attempt from ranchers to pause Colorado’s wolf reintroduction process, clearing a path for the state to begin releasing the animals on the Western Slope as soon as Monday. 

The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this week by the Gunnison County Stockgrower’s Association and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. The lawsuit argues that the federal government failed to conduct an adequate environmental review of Colorado’s wolf reintroduction process, asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the release of any animals while it considers the matter. 

“While the Petitioners who have lived and worked on the land for many years are understandably concerned about possible impacts of this reintroduction, neither these possible impacts nor their assertions under the Administrative Procedures Act are sufficient for this Court to grant the extraordinary relief they seek,” the ruling reads. 

For that reason, the court denied the plantiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order. 

Judge Regina M. Rodriguez heard initial arguments in the case on Thursday. 

If she had sided with the livestock groups, the decision would have scrambled Colorado's final work to follow through on a ballot measure narrowly approved by voters in 2020. The initiative set a deadline for Colorado to release wolves by the end of 2023.

Since then, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has spent years preparing its wolf management plan, which calls for the release of 30 to 50 wolves over the next three to five years. It also secured an agreement with Oregon to capture an initial batch of up to 10 wolves. 

During oral arguments on Thursday, Lisa Reynolds, an attorney for the agency, revealed that wildlife officers plan to attempt to tranquilize and capture wolves in eastern Oregon starting on Sunday. 

If successful, the predators could be flown to Colorado and released as soon as Monday.