The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is signaling a warning about an organized ballot initiative effort just underway in Colorado seeking to forcibly introduce gray wolves into the state.

“To be clear, RMEF strongly opposes the forced introduction of gray wolves to Colorado,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “We have witnessed 20 plus years of lies and litigation in the Northern Rockies concerning wolves. This Colorado effort is driven by the same groups using the same tactics to accomplish their agenda.”

In the Northern Rockies, initial recovery goals were established and agreed upon for the introduction of gray wolves that took place in 1995-96. Those goals were reached in 2002 but final delisting did not occur in Idaho and Montana until a congressional fix in 2011. Wyoming did not receive the ultimate ability to manage wolves until 2017. Animal rights and environment extremist groups used litigation and propaganda to delay the delisting time after time. (Scroll down to view a full listing of lawsuits and a timeline.)

Fortunately, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is already on record in opposition to a forced reintroduction. CPW has a wolf management plan in place and is prepared to effectively manage the already occurring natural colonization of wolves to Colorado. The ballot initiative is nothing more than a propaganda and fundraising-based effort by environmental extremists.

“A forced introduction of wolves to Colorado would cost untold amounts of taxpayer dollars, redirect already limited wildlife management resources and would have a significant negative economic impact to the state,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “In Colorado, you are dealing with about a third of the land mass of the Northern Rockies’ states but almost double the human population. A forced reintroduction would trigger the potential for real issues in the state.”

In addition, elk populations in southwest Colorado are already struggling. Researchers are working to find the cause of poor calf recruitment and low elk numbers. A forced reintroduction of wolves would be catastrophic to this work and the established elk and deer herds in the area.

Environmental groups continue to claim wolf reintroduction would “restore natural balance,” yet science shows that is anything but a given. Research also directly disputes the assumption that reintroducing wolves trigger what is termed trophic cascade or that the wolf’s presence automatically benefits biodiversity.

“It is one thing if wolves naturally return to Colorado, but it is something completely different if they are artificially placed on the landscape to complicate a system that is already complicated by human population and development,” added Weaver.

Litigation – Wolves in the Northern Rockies (2003-2017)

2003: Lawsuit challenges reclassification of wolves. Court sides with environmental groups and wolves go back to being “endangered.” Defenders of Wildlife v. Secretary. United Stated DOI, 354 F. Supp. 2d 1156 (D. Or. 2005).

2004: Wyoming sues after FWS rejects the state wildlife management plan. Court finds for FWS. Wyoming v. United States DOI, 360 F. Supp. 2d 1214 (D. Wyo. 2005)
On appeal to the Tenth Circuit, Court affirmed decision. Wyoming v. United States DOI, 442 F.3d 1262, 1264 (10th Cir. 2006)

2008: Lawsuit (Defenders v. Hall) challenges state, tribal management action of wolves

2008: Federal judge returns Idaho/Montana wolves to endangered protection. Defenders of Wildlife v. Hall, 565 F. Supp. 2d 1160, 1177 (D. Mont. 2008)

2009: Wyoming challenges FWS determination that Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan was not sufficient. Wyoming v. United States DOI, No. 2:09-cv-00118-ABJ (D. Wy. June 2, 2010).

2009: Lawsuit (Defenders v. Salazar) challenges delisting rule for Idaho & Montana.

2009: Court denies injunction to half wolf hunts in Idaho & Montana. Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar, 812 F. Supp. 2d 1205, 1206 (D. Mont. 2009)

2009: Plaintiffs seek to enjoin the Forest Service from using helicopters in the Frank Church Wilderness to dart and collar wolves. Plaintiffs claim that the use of aircraft violates NEPA and the Wilderness Act. Wolf Recovery Found. v. United States Forest Serv., 692 F. Supp. 2d 1264, 1265-66 (D. Idaho 2010)

2010: Federal judge returns NRM wolves to endangered protection. Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar, 729 F. Supp. 2d 1207, 1209 (D. Mont. 2010)

2010: Wyoming Court finds FWS rejection of Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan unlawful. Wyoming v. United States DOI, No. 2:09-cv-00118-ABJ (D. Wy. Nov. 18, 2010).

2011: Lawsuit (Alliance for Wild Rockies vs. Salazar) challenges legislation that delisted wolves in Idaho & Montana. Court finds delisting was legal, environmental groups appeal.

2012: Ninth Circuit Appeals Court affirms legislative delisting wolves in Idaho & Montana. Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Salazar, 672 F.3d 1170, 1171 (9th Cir. 2012) Montana

2012: Lawsuit (Defenders vs. Jewell) challenges FWS rule that delists wolves

2014: Washington D. C. court reinstates protections for wolves in Wyoming. Defenders of Wildlife v. Jewell, 68 F. Supp. 3d 193, 195 (D.D.C. 2014)

2015: FWS files appeal to delist wolves in Wyoming (Defenders v. Jewell)

2017: Washington D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling returns state management to Wyoming. Defenders of Wildlife v. Zinke, 849 F.3d 1077 (D.C. Cir. 2017)

(Note: years listed are “decided” dates, not filed dates)

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.4 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at, or 800-CALL ELK.