Vote ‘no’ on Proposition 114, the plan to reintroduce wolves to Colorado
The wolf is a creature that is both romanticized and vilified, and this effort to reintroduce the apex predator on public lands in western Colorado has elicited strong opinions on both sides of the issue. And now, it’s time for Coloradans to decide.
If approved by voters, Proposition 114 would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves in Colorado by Dec. 31, 2023, on designated public lands west of the Continental Divide. About 10 wolves would be introduced at a cost of $500,000 per year.
After listening to presentations from proponents and opponents of the ballot measure, we will not be endorsing Proposition 114 and are asking voters to cast a “no” vote.
Our position is not based on whether we like wolves, but because we believe this complex issue should not be decided at the ballot box but guided by the state’s wildlife experts. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has opposed forced wolf reintroduction four times, most recently in 2016, because it said the idea goes against its science and wildlife management practices.
Among the many issues better addressed by wildlife experts, we think Proposition 114 could have detrimental impacts on wildlife, recreation and ranching, which are of importance to Steamboat Springs and Routt County. We foresee increased human-wolf interactions in popular wilderness areas that surround Steamboat where more people are recreating each year.
Wolves, as apex predators, will impact our deer, elk and moose populations, and in northwest Colorado, where hunting is a multi-million dollar industry, a decrease in wildlife populations would negatively impact our local economy. For example, in Jackson Hole, Wyo., the moose population there dropped from more than 3,000 to 500 since the wolf was reintroduced in that state.
The way the issue was placed on the ballot also concerns us. The signature-gathering effort behind the measure was backed by serious money, and a lot of the financial support came from out of state. The majority of the signatures gathered to place the issue on the ballot came from Front Range residents, which serves to further fuel the urban/rural divide that exists in Colorado. And to us living on the Western Slope, it certainly doesn’t feel like the forced reintroduction of wolves should be decided by urban residents, when it’s our more rural communities that will be affected by the decision.
Wolves also need room to roam, and with Colorado’s exploding population growth, especially in mountain towns like Steamboat, conflicts between wolves and humans are inevitable. Proponents of Proposition 114 use the wolf introduction effort at Yellowstone National Park as proof of the benefits that will come if we bring the wolf back to Colorado, but we think using that scientific data to support the introduction of wolves here is comparing apples to oranges.
There also is the issue of the cost to implement the reintroduction effort. From a fiscal perspective, the plan to reintroduce wolves would cost an estimated $6 million in new spending during the first eight years of the program. And with the impacts of COVID-19 forcing state lawmakers to find $3 billion in spending cuts in 2021, we don’t think now is the time to introduce a species that is already here in limited numbers and ask taxpayers to pay for it.
Pursuing the reintroduction of wolves by popular vote is putting politics before science, and it asks voters to decide a multi-layered issue that they don’t have expertise in. And with wolves coming into Colorado naturally, we’d like to see our state’s wildlife experts, who have stewarded our public lands for decades, take the lead and manage the state’s wildlife population using science to create policy.
As we stated in an earlier editorial about this issue, Parks and Wildlife is charged with balancing the conservation of the state’s wildlife and habitat with recreational needs, and the agency is a national leader when it comes to cutting-edge research and innovative wildlife conservation practices. Voting ‘no’ on Proposition 114 is what’s best for Routt County and Colorado. ❖
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