Colorado voters Tuesday passed Proposition 114, the Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative, paving the way for gray wolves’ return to the Western Slope.
Proposition 114 authorizes the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create and implement a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on designated lands west of the continental divide, with “paws on the ground” beginning no later than the end of 2023. The commission will also be in charge of determining the exact location of the wolf reintroductions. Financially, the ballot measure directs the state legislature to make appropriations to fund the reintroduction program. The commission is also responsible for managing any distribution of state funds made available to “pay fair compensation to owners of livestock for any losses of livestock caused by gray wolves.” The initiative makes Colorado the first state to vote to introduce wolves, rather than under the guidance of federal wildlife biologists.
Gray wolves were present throughout the majority of the US, including within Colorado, before the arrival of Europeans in North America. By the 1930s, wolf populations disappeared from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the last remaining Colorado wolves were killed around 1940. In 1974, the remaining gray wolves in the continental US were granted protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service developed a “wolf recovery team” to help restore wolves to the Northern Rocky Mountain region.
Last week, US Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced that “the Trump Administration and its many conservation partners” successfully recovered gray wolf populations and moved to delist them from the ESA.
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund led the campaign in support of the initiative, with support from former Colorado officials and the Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club. The campaign raised over $2 million in contributions. Primary opposition came from the state’s large cattle industry.