DENVER (CBS4) – The fight over whether gray wolves should be reintroduced in Colorado is heating up. The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund is behind the campaign to get the issue on the ballot in 2020.
On Tuesday morning they delivered more than 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office to begin the process.
Joanna Lambert is an Environmental Studies professor at the University of Colorado and backer of the proposed initiative spoke about the move forward.
“We have wolves in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. We have them in the northern Rockies. There are wolves more toward Mexico. The missing gap is Colorado.”
After years of Colorado leaders and wildlife commissioners opposing the reintroduction, advocates say having gray wolves back in Colorado could restore the states natural balance and believe it should be for the people to decide.
“This is the first time ever in U.S. history where the restoration of an endangered species using the mechanism of reintroduction has been done via a democratic process,” Lambert said.
That alone raises red flags with opponents.
Terry Frankhauser with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association says it’s a complex, biological decision that shouldn’t be political.
“It’s not that we are opposed to wolves. It’s not even that we are opposed to discussing elements around the proposal. It’s that we don’t believe things like that belong in government electoral policy,” Frankhauser said. “That’s why we have this 100-year-old agency called Colorado Parks and Wildlife.”
He says outside of the obvious threat to livestock, Colorado’s more iconic wildlife like elk, moose and deer would be hunted first, and he counters the idea from supporters that reintroduction might improve Colorado’s ecosystem.
“This is not a necessary component of wildlife management,” Frankhauser said.
The Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Farm Bureau and several counties have already come out against the proposal.
As it stands the initiative specifies that reintroduction would happen on BLM land in western Colorado where it is more abundant and would include a fund to reimburse ranchers if livestock was killed.
The Secretary of State’s office has 30 days to determine whether the group has enough valid signatures to make the ballot.