Garfield Co commissioners oppose wolf reintroduction
Garfield County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a resolution opposing reintroducing wolves to Colorado. But the county’s resolution may not matter when voters head to the ballot box next year.
“I’m amazed that people want to do something like this, because I don’t think it would be good for anyone, in any way,” Commissioner Mike Samson said of efforts to bring wolves into the state.
But in fact, many people in Colorado want wolves here, according to one 2019 poll.
Paid for by the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, the poll showed that 67% of Coloradans support wolf introduction.
With so many supporting wolves in Colorado, Rob Edward, founder and president of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund backing the initiative, says it’s high time to get started.
“The bottom line is, we have so much information now about how important wolves are to the landscape, and we know we have the people behind us both on the Front Range and the Western Slope. It’s time to get this done,” Edward said.
Edward is behind the effort of putting wolf introduction on the ballot for Colorado’s November 2020 general election. The initiative requires creating plans and bringing wolves into Colorado by the end of 2023.
Edward is confident that volunteers have collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot.
He’s also convinced of broad support for wolf introduction.
“We have the Western Slope with us, it’s just a matter of helping people understand the nuances of living with wolves,” Edward said.
On the Western Slope, where the wolves would be introduced if Initiative 107 passes, 61% of respondents favored wolf introduction, according to the poll.
Those opposed to wolf reintroduction have a number of concerns.
“Not only do (wolves) kill the cattle, but they bother them, they chase them around and stir them up,” and as a result, there are fewer cattle pregnancies, Garfield County rancher Frank Daley told the commissioners.
Based on his experience with coyotes, Daley also worries that the cattle made anxious by wolves will break fences and injure calves.
“We definitely don’t need to add in another predator,” he said.
The impact on wildlife is another concern.
“We do not want to have wolves reintroduced into the state of Colorado for many reasons, one of which is that it would be devastating for the moose, elk and deer populations of our state, not to mention domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep,” Samson said.
The effect of wolves on elk and deer where they have been reintroduced in isn’t completely settled.
Wolves appear to be a factor in declining elk herds in Yellowstone National Park, but elsewhere, like Montana, elk herds are increasing.
In 2004, the Colorado Department of Wildlife, which has since been renamed Parks and Wildlife, commissioned the wolf working group, recommended managing wolves that came into the state, but tabled reintroduction efforts.
Garfield County commissioners see their opposition as continuing that management plan.
“The wolves are kind of introducing themselves and they are getting into Colorado from Wyoming and the southern part from New Mexico,” Jankovsky said.
Two potential gray wolf sightings in 2019 are being investigated by state wildlife officials.
According to Edward, who was a member of the wolf working group, going to the voters is appropriate.
“It’s not circumventing the DOW or the Wildlife Commission. It very explicitly involves them. It simply says, ‘The people want you to do this, so do it,’” Edward said.
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