The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund is close to having enough signatures to get an item placed on the ballot for the November 2020 election that would ask voters to allow the reintroduction of wolves to Colorado.
Rob Edward, president of the board for the fund, told the Montrose Daily Press that, despite a short pause in the early fall from gathering signatures to raise more funds, the group has collected roughly 170,000 signatures.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of (signature) booklets out right now,” he said. “Between the ones that are out and what will happen in November, we’re confident (we will gather enough signatures.”
The group only needs 124,632 valid signatures, but when collecting them, there can be about a 30-percent attrition rate due to invalid signatures from those not registered to vote.
The RMWAF first started gathering the signatures in June and expects it will need 200,000 total to attain the needed valid signatures.
Proponents of the reintroduction of gray wolves like Edward argue the Colorado ecosystem has not been the same since wolves were eradicated around 1940. Other wild animals, like elk and deer, Edward says, have become sedentary and have negatively affected the environments around them.
“They’re not just another predator. They’re a very specific type of predator,” Edward said. “They make their prey run, they move herds around, and they them them from browsing everything to the ground.”
Those against the ballot initiative say wolves pose an unnecessary threat to livestock and cost farmers time and money.
Edward and the RMWAF don’t deny that point.
“Once there are more than just a handful of wolves in western Colorado, there’s going to be, from time to time throughout the state, some instances (when wolves attack livestock),” he said. “But what we know from the northern Rocky Mountains and other areas where wolves have been reintroduced is it’s a fraction of a percent in the whole state.”
Edward also recognizes that losing even one or two sheep or cattle could be harmful to a rancher, so the proposed law — Initiative 107 — proposes paying ranchers for any livestock killed by wolves.
If the initiative were to make it to the ballot, and if voters approved it, Colorado would be the first state where voters mandated wolves be reintroduced, rather than wildlife organizations and scientists.
Wolves were killed out in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, but they have since been reintroduced in those states. It was estimated there were 1,704 wolves in the Rocky Mountain region in 2015, and earlier this year, a wolf crossing the state line from Wyoming to Colorado got attention from Colorado Parks and Wildlife as well as significant attention in the press.
Initiative 107 would direct the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to restore and manage gray wolves in Colorado “using the best scientific data available” and designed to resolve conflicts with persons engaged in ranching and farming,” the Colorado Sun reported earlier this year.
This article has been updated to show the group needs 124,632 signatures.