Larris: People should not kill wolves on public land |

Larris: People should not kill wolves on public land

Lindsay Larris
WildEarth Guardians
A gray wolf in captivity.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Colorado public lands are primed to welcome back the howl of the wolf. These landscapes should be where wolves are most welcome and protected. Unfortunately, Colorado Parks and Wildlife doesn’t quite see it that way. Their draft wolf plan would allow wolves to be killed even in wilderness areas.

Public lands should be where public values are prioritized over private profits for the few. As much as those opposed to wolf reintroduction frame Proposition 114 as Front Range voters foisting values on Western Slope inhabitants, this is false for several reasons. First, of 1.59 million Coloradans who voted “yes” on wolf reintroduction, over 300,000 votes came from the Western Slope, while more than 770,000 (roughly half of “no” votes) came from the Denver-Boulder Metro Area. Several counties on the Western Slope were more than 50% in favor of Proposition 114 including Pitkin, Summit, and San Juan, areas likely to be prime habitat for wolf restoration. 

Public lands do not simply “belong” to inhabitants of individual counties or to a particular interest group: They belong to everyone. Most Coloradans have a dreamy idea of public lands. We think of pristine, postcard-style pictures of tall trees, clear lakes, rushing rivers, and curious and majestic wildlife.

Wildlife is disappearing from our planet at an alarming rate. If we want a future shared with other forms of life, we’re going to have to leave room for them. There need to be places where humans show some humility and reverence for others. Public lands are those places. Places where we, collectively, have decided that nature and wildness should take precedence. And humans, if we’re polite and respectful visitors, have the opportunity to experience wildness on occasion in these incredible landscapes.

While a final wolf plan will likely include some level of wolf killing at the behest of livestock operators, we urge the commissioners to make these “removals” as rare as possible and place some onus on livestock operators to protect their herds.

More significantly, commissioners should exercise their power to prohibit wolf-killing on public lands. These are places that belong to the public who voted to reintroduce wolves to see them thrive, not be slaughtered in their natural habitat.

Those who are granted the privilege of grazing on public land must coexist with native species on that land and respect the values of the public as to how the land should be used. These lands are where the wolf should find refuge after being senselessly extirpated from Colorado over 75 years ago. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

Lindsay Larris is the wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians, a non-profit grassroots environmental organization.