By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4)– Activists are working at the grass-roots level to change public opinion as they hope to eventually reintroduce packs of wolves into several regions of Colorado wilderness.
“Wolves will not get here on their own. Yes, we’ve had three or four wander in over the past few decades, but they have not been able to find or establish a pack,” said Delia Malone, the Colorado Sierra Club Wildlife Team Chair.
Malone has been giving talks around Colorado and is planning more in 2018. Most of her presentation is centered on the success of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park.
“In eating elk, which is their primary prey, wolves make ecosystems healthier,” said Malone. “When the elk are moved out of the stream areas, the willow can recover, the beaver can come back, songbirds come back, the fish can come back. So, wolves initiate this cascade of events that improve biodiversity.”
“Yellowstone cannot be the argument for bringing wolves to Colorado. There’s no need for a trophic cascade,” said Steve Lohr, an outdoorsman. “It’s nonsensical to say this West Slope, or Middle Park or North Park or for that matter the whole Great Basin is comparable to Yellowstone National Park. It’s not.”
Lohr attended one of Malone’s presentations and says businesses will be affected if wolf packs return to Colorado.
“Wolves create a serious drain on some economies that are important to Colorado. If you’re a wool grower and you’re losing sheep, the obvious loss is there. If you’re a cattleman, the obvious loss is there. It there are no more hunting opportunities there’s a huge loss,” Lohr said.
Malone says states like Montana and Wyoming have set up programs to give ranchers payments if livestock are killed and says the loss of sheep or cattle has been minimal.
“Wolves are important moderator, Malone says. “Wolves are not going to decimate elk, they are actually going to improve the population and to bringing that understanding that livestock can live and coexistence with wolves.”
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted against a resolution that would have supported wolf reintroduction two years ago. But activists say they’re going to continue working for what they say will improve the state’s environment.
“We can see there’s not the conflict that people purport there’s going to be,” Malone said.
More events are expected around Colorado, you can find out more information at https://www.rockymountainwolfproject.org/
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.