State says no to new wildlife

  The next time the federal or state government wants to reintroduce wildlife on public lands in Colorado, the state Legislature wants it to ask nicely.

On April 22 - Earth Day - Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed the measure requiring the Legislature's consent before agencies can restore threatened and endangered species to the state.

Critics say the law turns biological decisions into political ones. Legislators "can't give these issues the time and expertise that the Division of Wildlife does," says Diane Gansauer, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. She points out that state agencies spend years researching wildlife matters and consulting with experts in the field.

Sandra Eid, legislative coordinator for the Colorado Sierra Club, says politicians just want to prevent future reintroductions.

Not so, say the law's champions. Rep. Steve Johnson, R, who introduced the measure, says it will merely "bring more citizen input to bear on this important decision."

However, Sen. Dave Wattenberg, R, says that the bill may make future plans difficult. "It'd take a hell of a strong case to get wolves and possibly wolverines released."

The Division of Wildlife hopes to reintroduce wolverines next year.

How does the law affect the recently reintroduced lynx in Colorado (HCN, 2/15/99)? It doesn't, says Mike Smith, wildlife chair for the state Sierra Club, "though it probably will increase negative fallout on the Department of Wildlife if they continue with the program."

*Catherine Lutz
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