Conservation Chair, Headwaters Group Colorado Sierra Club
Coloradans have a historic opportunity this November: To vote for restoring a natural balance to 17 million acres of Colorado’s public lands by restoring gray wolves to western Colorado.
If you are, or become, a registered Colorado voter, you have a stake in the outcome of this grassroots effort, no matter where you live in Colorado.
So let’s take a look at the most commonly asked questions about this unique ballot proposition.
What is Proposition 114?
Proposition 114 (formerly Initiative 107) is a citizen-initiated ballot proposition that, if passed, will be the first time an endangered species will be restored via a voter-initiated democratic process.
Proposition 114 has 4 key components:
Perhaps as important, Prop. 114 does NOT specify how many wolves would be needed for a successful restoration; nor which subspecies of North American Gray Wolf would be selected. It does NOT say where the gray wolves would come from, nor where they would be restored to, other than west of the continental divide. Finally, Prop. 114 does NOT indicate how much a restoration should cost and where the funds would come from to pay for it.
While it can be frustrating to both sides of this debate not to have all the answers defined up- front, the “smarts” behind Prop. 114 is that CPW wildlife biologists - not voters or politicians - would be in charge of creating and implementing a plan ... and they have effectively 3 full years to get it right. This Proposition is not, as some detractors have labeled, “Ballot-Box Biology”. Colorado Parks & Wildlife is uniquely qualified to best restore and manage an endangered species - and they’ve done this work before!
So why vote “Yes”?
Simply stated, returning the wolf would go far towards restoring the natural balance in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains that was irrevocably upset when the last wolf was killed in southwestern Colorado in 1945. Before that, gray wolves inhabited the southern Rocky Mountains for thousands of years, evolving along with their prey such as deer and elk.
Bringing wolves back will help restore this predator-prey balance (most recently demonstrated in Yellowstone National Park), helping keep both the prey and the landscapes they graze healthier. In this way, Prop. 114 “pays it forward” to future generations of Coloradans who will care about our great wilderness areas.
But how this would be done is another reason to vote “yes” ... Proposition 114 was carefully crafted to guide CPW in developing a plan that’s humane, effective, affordable and respectful of all concerned.
Note that if you vote “yes”, you certainly won’t be alone - or even in a minority. There has been strong, bipartisan support for wolf restoration in Colorado shown both on the Western Slope and in the Front Range in over 20 years of research polling.
And you’d be in great company ... On September 9th, over 70 conservation organizations representing 16 million Americans sent a letter to Colorado’s Governor and Natural Resources Director supporting gray wolf restoration to Colorado.
But is it “fair” to everyone?
This question is generally raised in the context of reducing the debate to “Urban vs. Rural” or “Western Slope vs. Front Range” or even “Red vs. Blue”. In light of these generalizations, voters should remember that every Coloradan has a right to say how our public lands are utilized. By definition, public lands are for everyone. Supporting this is Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s own charter, which clearly states that they are to manage Colorado’s wildlife and wild spaces for everyone - not just for those who view wildlife and wilderness more as consumptive resources.
Who’s gonna pay for this?
Or as otherwise stated ... “I’m in favor, but I don’t wanna pay for this.”. Without getting into the weeds, proponents of wolf restoration estimate that 75% of potential funding could come from Federal grants, and 25% from State wildlife and GOCO (Great Outdoors Colorado) grants. They strongly believe no new taxes would be required; and no wolf restoration funds would be generated by hunting and fishing licenses.
What about [fill in your concern here]?
Legitimate concerns still arise from both sides of the debate. So, for example, CPW is required to manage gray wolves as a non-game species, meaning they can’t be hunted. On the flip side, if gray wolves attack livestock they can be lethally controlled if necessary under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
CPW is also required to establish and maintain a self-sustaining wolf population. That is, their plan cannot consist of reintroducing one pack of wolves and calling “done”.
And finally, gray wolves will remain protected as a Colorado Endangered Species even if they are delisted from the Federal ESA - which the current administration is striving to do by the end of this year.
What is the Sierra Club’s position?
The Sierra Club, led by our Colorado Chapter, has supported wolf restoration in Colorado for years and urges you to vote “yes” on Proposition 114.