Coloradans will be asked to make the state’s western wilderness a little more wild this
November via Proposition 114, a proposal to reintroduce gray wolves to the Western Slope.
The measure asks state residents whether the state Parks and Wildlife Commission should craft a plan to bring wolves back to the western half of the state by the end of 2023.
Proponents say the proposal will help rectify an ecosystem that has been out of balance since wolves were effectively eradicated from the state through hunting and bounty programs some 90 years ago.Those opposed to the measure say wolves will throw the state’s hunting and ranching practices into disarray, while simultaneously giving voters the chance to serve as armchair ecologists.
Recent sightings of the animals in the state also suggest that wolves could reestablish
themselves in the region without government interference, opponents to the measure have said. In Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, where state governments oversee gray wolf repopulation programs, about 300 cattle and sheep are killed by wolves annually, according to the state legislature’s legislative council office.
Conservationists have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race since the
committee registered in favor of the effort, The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, was formed last year. The group has netted more than $1.7 million in donations since it launched in May 2019, according to campaign finance filings. All but $19,000 of that total had been spent as of the most recent reports filed with the Colorado Secretary of State on Sept. 21.
A man identified as the president of the land restoration group the Biophilia Foundation has given more than $250,000 to the proponents of the measure, and the liberal funding group The Tides Center has chipped in more than $375,000. Groups like the Colorado Sierra Club and the Maryland-based Association of Zoos and Aquariums have also donated to the cause, with the latter contributing $100,000 the day after Election Day last year.
Farmers and ranchers have also pumped cash into the opposition campaign, but at a much smaller scale than those in favor of seeing wolves in the state. The committee registered to quash the measure, the Stop the Wolf PAC, had raised about $70,000 as of the middle of September. The group has spent roughly half of that total so far.
One of the largest single donations to the group came in late July when a Washington D.C. organization generally against environmental activism gave the Wolf Pac $17,000 to produce television ads, according to campaign finance filings.
The question of gray wolf introduction in the state has been pervasive in the state and across the west in recent years, though Proposition 114 marks the first time Colorado voters will weigh in. In 2016, the state’s wildlife commission rejected requests for gray wolf reintroduction.
There are an estimated 2,000 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, with additional pockets in Washington, Oregon and California. The country’s largest wolf population totals about 4,000 outside of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
If passed, the state is expected to pay about $800,000 per year by 2024 to bring wolves back to the state. The monies will primarily come form hunting and fishing license fees, according to legislative analysts.