Today, volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF) submitted over 210,000 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State to place restoration of wolves on Colorado’s 2020 statewide ballot.
“Colorado voters have made clear once again that they enthusiastically support restoring the natural balance to Colorado’s wild public lands.” said Rob Edward, President of RMWAF, the lead organization behind the initiative. “The enthusiastic response from voters all across the state to this initiative is not a surprise, since poll after poll during the past 20 years has shown that Coloradoans want to bring back the wolf.”
This is the first time that reintroduction of an endangered species has been initiated through a direct vote of the people. The initiative instructs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop, after public input, a science-based plan for reintroducing wolves to Western Colorado by 2023. It also directs the Colorado General Assembly to develop a means to compensate ranchers for the small number of livestock that could potentially be lost to wolves each year.
Edward added, “A recent poll commissioned by the RMWAF showed over two-thirds of Coloradans, including majorities in the Western Slope as well as the Front Range, support reintroduction.”
"This wolf reintroduction initiative is the ground-breaking manifestation of that public support, marrying wildlife conservation and direct democracy,” said Edward.
Dr. Joanna Lambert, a professor of environmental studies and evolutionary ecology at the University of Colorado, underscored the fact that Initiative 107 has national significance, given that over 70% of Western Colorado belongs to the American public as national forests, national parks, and other public lands. "In November 2020, Colorado will show the nation what stewardship looks like," Lambert said.
Lambert expressed the importance of reintroducing wolves in Colorado for all of North America. "Delivering these signatures is the first step toward restoring an interconnected population of wolves that stretches from the high Arctic southward to the Mexican border. Colorado will be the last of the Rocky Mountain states to bring wolves back to their historic range. Many years of scientific inquiry and public involvement form the foundation of this initiative and direct democracy will give that science a voice,” said Lambert.
Eric Washburn, a big game hunter who lives in Steamboat Springs, welcomed the chance to restore wolves to the state. "Colorado needs wolves. These magnificent animals will make Colorado mountain ecosystems healthier and more balanced, just like they have done in Idaho, Montana and Yellowstone National Park.”
“Elk and wolves coexist quite well in the Northern Rockies, and over the last 25 years, elk populations have grown along with the wolves,” said Washburn. “Moreover, as a hunter who harvested a CWD-infected deer in Colorado just last year, I am extremely concerned that the absence of wolves is allowing diseases like CWD to spread. When you look around the Rocky Mountains, you don’t find CWD-infected deer and elk where you find populations of wolves. We need that kind of help in Colorado now."
The wolf reintroduction initiative is supported by a large coalition of organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Coloradans.
Caitlin Cattelino, the Denver-based National Outreach Representative for Defenders of Wildlife, underscored the lessons learned from wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies. “In the 25 years since wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies, they have indeed helped restore the natural balance while impacts to ranching and hunting have been minimal. In fact, elk populations in the Northern Rockies are as healthy as they’ve ever been in the last century. We can expect the same results here.”
Delia Malone, Redstone resident, and ecologist with the Sierra Club emphasized the galvanizing effect of canvassing for signatures in support of Initiative 107. "Volunteers, both on the Western Slope and Colorado's Front Range have found overwhelming enthusiasm for restoring wolves to Colorado. It is tremendously inspiring to be part of such a visionary wildlife restoration campaign. We’re looking forward to helping wolves restore the balance to Colorado’s public lands."
Sam Gilchrist, Colorado resident and Western Campaigns Director for the NRDC Action Fund, noted that delivering over 200,000 signatures demonstrates how much public support there is for wolf reintroduction in Colorado. “These 200,000 signatures represent just a small sample of the overwhelming majority of Coloradans who support bringing wolves back to our state. Whether we’re hikers or hunters, from Denver or Durango or somewhere in between, we’re united in our commitment to restoring the wildlife that makes Colorado home.”
“Many Colorado voters who signed these petitions understand that wolves help other species thrive,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves keep elk moving, which spares streamside plants, and they provide leftover meals for scavenging eagles, bears and wolverines. It’s time to return these amazing animals to Colorado’s wild places.”
Darlene Kobobel, one of the two official proponents of the wolf reintroduction initiative and Director of the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, expressed great optimism about the future for wolves in Colorado. “It’s time to restore the Gray wolf to Colorado’s wild public lands. This is an historic moment for Coloradans and wolves. The wolf is a symbol of wild nature and a voice that’s been missing from our landscape for 78 years. It’s time to restore the balance.”
Gail Bell, the second official proponent of the wolf reintroduction initiative said, “I’m incredibly honored to be a proponent of this initiative. Restoring wolves to their historic range has been a passion of mine since 1995 when they were reintroduced into Yellowstone. This is Colorado’s opportunity to restore the balance in our wild places.”
Dehlia Malone, Sierra Club, 970.319.9498, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Gilchrist, Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, 317-258-9415, SGilchrist@nrdc.org
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, 575-313-7017, email@example.com