by Christine Mahorney
On January 6, it was confirmed by Colorado’s Secretary of State office that the ballot measure to reintroduce wolves into Colorado reached the required number of signatures
to appear on the 2020 ballot.
On the ballot, the measure will read: “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?”
A “Yes” vote will require Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create and implement a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves within the state by the end of 2023. The Commission would have the ability to determine exactly where to introduce the pack – but it would be west of the Continental Divide.
Readers have no doubt seen bumper stickers on local pick up trucks against the measure, and graphics citing the decline of big game numbers in Yellowstone National Park (where wolves were reintroduced in 1995) spread like wildfire on Facebook.
Shortly following the confirmation that the measure would make the 2020 ballot, Grand County’s commissioners unanimously voted to approve a resolution opposing the measure, citing constituent concerns about livestock and potential harm to outfitters. And they aren’t alone. Like Grand’s commissioners, a full third of Colorado’s counties have collectively spoken out against the measure.
Along with quiet, long-held beliefs that – though not often spotted – wolves already reside in the Northern Rocky Mountain region, town folk and commissioners alike have expressed opinions that the general Colorado voting public (most of whom reside in urban areas on the other side of the Continental Divide from where the pack would be reintroduced) shouldn’t be in charge of wildlife management; that the decision to insert apex predators into an already fragile ecosystem should be left to wildlife managers.
While it’s clear through bumper stickers, social media posts and county commissioner statements how grown-ups in West Grand will most likely cast their votes on ballot measure, we thought we’d ask some of our younger constituents for their opinions.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with one of West Grand Elementary’s second grade classes. After watching two short, educational videos about wolves, I explained to them that the people in Colorado were going to have the chance to vote about whether or not wolves should be given a home in Colorado. Sharp students they are, many had already heard about the wolf reintroduction, and several piped up to talk about the wolf pack in Yellowstone.
I passed out cards and told them that they also got to vote whether wolves should be reintroduced to our area. They were asked to write “yes” or “no,” and also a short sentence explaining their decision.
The “Yes” votes did outnumber the “No” votes – but, to be fair, the videos featured wolf pups that were super cute and drew collective “aaawwww’s” from the class.
Here’s some of the reasons the second graders gave for their decisions:
“No! Because they can be dangerous.”
“No, ranches will go down.”
“Yes, because their howling is cool.”
“Yes, because it is for the best.”
“Yes, they are really cool.”
“No, because the elk populations will go down.”
(I admit I helped that child spell “populations.”)
The explanation that made me smile was “No, cause #Love.”
This vote has the potential to alter our region’s wildlife and lifestyles in a way West Grand generations have never seen. Regardless of how you – our readers – choose to vote, we encourage you to read the full text of the measure, and don’t just rely on bumper stickers and videos featuring adorable wolf pups.Learn more about the measure at ballotpedia.org/Colorado_Gray_Wolf_ Reintroduction_Initiative_(2020)