Wolf Reintroduction On Ballot In Colorado

Gray wolves are on the ballot in Colorado November 3. The state’s voters will decide Proposition 114, which would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (CPW) to create a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on the state’s Western Slope.

The ballot initiative pitts conservationists against ranchers. Proponents believe wolves will restore a natural ecological balance and help fight the chronic wasting disease afflicting Colorado’s deer and eld. As many as 70 conservation groups support Proposition 114, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Opponents argue that existing wildlife including threatened and endangered species would be put in danger. They contend wolves would threaten people, livestock and pets. Any benefits of wolf re-introduction would be temporary, they say, and would be offset by long-term damage. According to the Denver Post, elected commissioners in 38 of Colorado’s 64 counties, representing 36% of the state population, have opposed the measure.

In a letter to The Telluride Daily Planet newspaper, fourth-generation cattle rancher Nate Lamers opposed the wolf restoral plan, pointing out that wolves are already protected in Colorado and (for that matter) have already arrived, in the northwestern section of the state.

Norman Bishop, who worked for 36 years as a forest ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park and was on the NPS team that restored wolves to Yellowstone, wrote to The Telluride Daily Planet that he favors restoral. Bishop pointed out that “the half-dozen wolves that recently appeared in our state” have already lost three members and “Reintroduction is totally necessary to get wolves back” to Colorado.

In November of 2019, the Colorado Farm Bureau (CFB), Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), and Colorado Wool Growers’ Association (CWGA) announced they would oppose the wolf reintroduction plan.

In a statement issued at the time, Chad Vorthmann, Executive Vice President of the Colorado Farm Bureau said, “Organizations across the state are joining forces and encouraging Coloradans to rethink introducing the wolf. The decision about whether or not to introduce wolves to Colorado should be guided by science and left in the hands of experts, not the ballot box.”

The ballot question reads as follows: “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning the restoration of gray wolves through their reintroduction on designated lands in Colorado located west of the continental divide, and, in connection therewith, requiring the Colorado parks and wildlife commission, after holding statewide hearings and using scientific data, to implement a plan to restore and manage gray wolves; prohibiting the commission from imposing any land, water, or resource use restrictions on private landowners to further the plan; and requiring the commission to fairly compensate owners for losses of livestock caused by gray wolves?”