In what has turned out to be one of the tightest races of the 11 measures in the 2020 general election, Coloradans are narrowly leaning to reintroduce grey wolves into the state. As of 8:08 a.m. on Wednesday, the measure was slightly leaning yes by less than 10,000 votes with 85.38% of ballots counted statewide. With 50.17% of the vote leaning yes (1,412,507) and 49.83% leaning no (1,402,820), the race was too close to call Wednesday morning.
Statewide, the gap closed slightly between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. as more votes were counted. There was a 1.4% gap during that time frame, but since, that shortened to just under .4%.
In Montrose, the sentiment toward the measure was much more clear as voters made their position known on Proposition 114, voting heavily in opposition of the reintroduction of gray wolves with 18,309 “no/against” and just 5,689 votes for “yes/for” as of 11:04 p.m. on Tuesday night.
Delta, Ouray and Dolores counties joined Montrose in opposition to the measure, though results showed San Miguel (64.1%) and San Juan (56.5%) leaned heavily in favor.
Early results showed eight of the 11 counties, largely urban, on the Front Range voted in favor, and were joined by western counties La Plata and Pitkin. Voters on the south eastern rural counties leaned against the measure.
Proposition 114 asked Colorado voters to decide whether Colorado Parks and Wildlife would lead the reintroduction of gray wolves in western Colorado starting in 2023.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission would determine the exact locations of where the gray wolves would be introduced. Also, included in the measure is the distribution of state funds, as fair compensation, to owners of livestock if any loss occurs to the livestock caused by gray wolves.
The commission is required to come up with a plan to reintroduce the wolves using scientific data, hearings across the state to develop a plan and hearing from public input, which will update the plan as needed. The wolves must be reintroduced by Dec. 31, 2023.
Opponents of Proposition 114 are wary of the potential ramifications that could arise should gray wolves be introduced to the Western Slope, arguing livestock, pets and people could be threatened. Also, using voters (some say the measure shouldn’t even be on the ballot) rather than the knowledge and expertise of wildlife experts, commissioners of when to reintroduce wolves is “pushing aside” the value of science.
Proponents, however, argue that reintroduction of the gray wolves could restore a natural balance to ecosystems while giving the species a chance to thrive in the middle of the country, alongside the northern Rockies and the southwest — in the mid-1990s, gray wolves were introduced in Idaho and Montana, and according to a map from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service detailing the current distribution of the animal, the population is growing in Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Oregon.
Additionally, reintroduction would help further the recovery (as a form of conservation) of the species, nearly endangered in the early 1900s. (The Endangered Species Act has protected gray wolves since 1978.)
Campaign records showed The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, in support of the measure, reported $2.1 million in contributions while Coloradans Protecting Wildlife and Stop the Wolf PAC, in opposition, reported $781,110 in contributions.
Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press