Proposition 114 and Reintroducing Gray Wolves

Photo+by+Thomas+Lipke

Photo by Thomas Lipke

Emilie Matthews, Managing Editor

On the ballot this fall is Proposition 114, which if passed, would initiate the reintroduction of Gray Wolves to Colorado. Currently classified as an endangered species, Gray Wolves inhabit only a select number of states including Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, and portions of Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon, and Idaho. The last wolves in Colorado were killed around 1940 and have been absent from the state for over a half-century. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), “Over the past decade we have confirmed or have had probable wolf dispersals that occurred in 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2015.”  In January of 2020, CPW received a report of six possible wolves near the Wyoming and Utah borders, stating, “CPW staff went into the field to investigate the report, and were able to locate and visually confirm the presence of the pack.” With wolves already in the state, some may wonder what Proposition 114 will actually do if passed.

If passed, Proposition 114 would direct Colorado Parks and Wildlife to reintroduce Gray Wolves to the western slope by 2023. Supporters of reintroducing wolves claim that the current pack in the state is too small to create and sustain a lasting wolf population and that reintroduction is the best path towards wolf recovery. Advocates for Proposition 114 also cite successful reintroduction efforts in other states and the positive impact it had on restoring balance to the ecosystems. Opponents of reintroduction are primarily farmers, ranchers, and big-game hunters, who are concerned with the loss of livestock and game that wolves could cause, but Proposition 114 would require state wildlife officials to produce a plan to compensate ranchers for lost livestock. According to Colorado Public Radio, “Opponents worry wolves would harm both livestock and wildlife. While the ballot initiative calls for compensation for lost livestock, ranchers see flaws in similar programs in other parts of the country.” In states like Wyoming and Montana, elk population and harvest have not declined despite the reintroduction of wolves, but opponents of the Proposition have larger concerns than the impact on wildlife. According to Christian Reece, executive director of Club 20, a nonprofit representing western Colorado businesses and municipalities, Our Western Slope economies can’t afford to take the chance of introducing a species with zero studies on the potential economic impacts.” 

Regardless of the impacts that reintroducing Gray Wolves would have on the environment and economy, the decision is ultimately up to the people of Colorado. A simple majority vote is all it would take to set the reintroduction of wolves in motion, and by 2023, Colorado could be home to a growing population of Gray wolves.