According to Mike Phillips, director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, it would take 20 to 40 wolves to reintroduce the species to Western Colorado. Within two decades, that number would naturally increase to 250.

It’s the beginning to a long-sought counterbalance by conservationists to the government-supported wolf eradication programs that began in the U.S. as early as the 1600s and led to the near extinction of our country’s gray and red wolves.

Phillips, director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, is one of the world’s foremost experts on wolf restoration. In his career, he has led some of the world’s most significant public and private efforts to restore imperiled species. His work has helped restore red wolves to the southeastern United States and the gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park and surrounding national forests of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

In his talk, Phillips will examine the history and future of wolf recovery with an emphasis on western Colorado. Phillips and the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund’s current mission is to place a wolf restoration measure on the ballot this November.

Harnessing conservation biology and politics

Phillips received his BSc in Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution from the University of Illinois and his MSc in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Alaska. He has served as the director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund and an advisor to Turner Biodiversity Divisions since he established both with Ted Turner and his family in 1997. From 1986 to 1994, he was the Field Coordinator for the Red Wolf Recovery Program. He was also instrumental in the return of gray wolves to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Phillips is the leader of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project and the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, and he has authored or co-authored hundreds of reports and over 65 publications. Phillips currently serves as a Montana State Senator.

The Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series is presented by the Damrauer Endowed Lectureship Fund. Registration is recommended for the event, which is free and open to the public. Visit the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series website for more information or to register.

The gray wolf is listed on the federal Endangered Species Act, though in March the federal Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf from the federal protection list and return management to the states. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission in 2016 formally opposed returning wolf populations to the state.

Backers of reintroducing wolves are circulating petitions to place Initiative 107 on the state’s 2020 ballot. They have until Dec. 13 to gather 124,632 voter signatures.

Ex-state resources chief Walcher joins opposition to Colorado wolf reintroduction

When Greg Walcher was executive director of the state Department of Natural Resources, he believed that reintroduction of lost species provided to the landscape of Colorado. He worked on bringing back endangered fish, lynx, moose, bighorn sheep and even prairie chickens, he said Wednesday.

But wolves? Walcher isn’t running with that pack.

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