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Group wants wolves back in Colorado

DENVER (AP) — The state should develop a plan to reintroduce wolves or it will be a century before they roam in Colorado again, wolf advocates say.

They say a plan similar to the one created to restore the Canada lynx population, which has been successful, should be launched.

So far the state's Wolf Management Working Group — made up of ranchers, environmentalists, sportsmen, biologists and government officials — has agreed that wolves should be tolerated if they wander in from adjacent states, if they do not harm livestock or cause other problems.

Rob Edward of Sinapu, a Boulder-based group that advocates reintroduction of wolves, and a member of the state working group, said the panel is an ideal forum for developing a wolf reintroduction plan.

"It's fairly obvious there won't be any viable, self-sustaining packs in Colorado for the next 100 years if we wait for them to wander in," he said. "Throughout our group discussions, we have been asking the state for a recovery plan that should include reintroductions, but most of the working group rebuked us and now it's time the state faces up to the wishes of the people."

He was referring to two public opinion polls, one conducted in 1994 by Colorado State University that indicated 70.8 percent of 1,452 respondents favored the return of wolves, and another study in 2001 by Decision Research that showed 68 percent in Colorado in favor.

"The environmentalists on the committee have been up front about wanting to see wolves everywhere in Colorado," said Jean Stetson, co-chairman of the endangered species committee of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association. "And we've remained up front in saying we don't want any wolves."

Stetson and another working group member, Les Hampton, say they are concerned about the possibility that Rocky Mountain National Park will import wolves to help cull its burgeoning elk herd.