Re:"Wolf suit should be shot down," Sept. 22 editorial.

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Not Coloradans, the majority of whom support wolves. And Colorado needs wolves and the many benefits they provide. It's time for the federal government to restore wolves to Colorado, starting with Rocky Mountain National Park.

WildEarth Guardians is litigating Rocky Mountain National Park's flawed 2008 management plan for failing to seriously consider wolves to control elk herds. In an editorial, The Denver Post complained that, "returning wolves to Colorado ... shouldn't be decided in court." The Post misunderstands our case. We've only requested that the court require the National Park Service to fully analyze a wolf restoration alternative pursuant to required federal planning mandates.

The park has a long-standing elk problem. Elk have destroyed aspen groves, browsed down streamside vegetation, and degraded the habitat for a multitude of species. The obvious solution: restore wolves. Their work can't be beat and it's free.

To the shock of many, the Park Service — the federal agency most dedicated to managing natural landscapes — decided against wolves and chose instead to use sharpshooters to control elk herds. Hunting is prohibited in national parks. The Post quibbles that sharpshooting is not comparable to hunting, but that misses the point. National parks are designated to preserve natural processes. Shooting elk returns us to misguided policies of the past when park rangers eliminated socially unacceptable species — including, ironically, wolves.

What The Post seems most concerned about is the so-called "controversy" of re-introducing wolves in the park. But The Post's concerns are without merit. Wolves might leave the park, but they would have more than 2 million acres of adjacent national forests on which to roam. Wolf restoration has negligible effects on the livestock industry. Even in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming (and prior to recommencement of wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana last year), wolves have killed less than 1 percent of the cattle and sheep inventories.

Finally, the effects of wolf predation on elk numbers are also insignificant. In fact, in those same states, elk populations have exceeded management goals. Wolf restoration makes good sense. What's in it for Colorado? In addition to myriad ecological benefits, there's money to be made. Wolf-watching tourism generated $36 million in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in 2005. With wolf hunting and trapping in those three states, wolves are unlikely to migrate to Colorado on their own. We need to actively restore wolves to Colorado, starting in our national park.
Wendy Keefover is director of the Carnivore Protection Program for WildEarth Guardians in Broomfield. Mark Salvo is the group's wildlife program director in Phoenix.