DENVER – Colorado voters could be the first in the nation to decide the future of an entire species after the initiative to reintroduce endangered gray wolves to the state was approved Monday by the Secretary of State’s Office.
Initiative 107 qualified for the 2020 General Election ballot after Elections Division officials determined the number of valid signatures was greater than 110% of the total number required, according to a news release.
The initiative would direct the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to reintroduce wolves on public land west of the Continental Divide before 2024.
It also calls for state-administered compensation for ranchers and farmers who lose livestock to wolf predations — and hunting operations affected by the possible loss of elk and moose.
Supporters of the measure say reintroducing gray wolves to the state would restore balance to the state’s ecosystem and bring back an animal that was hunted to near extinction, but opponents of the measure, such as ranchers and farmers, say reintroducing the wild animals could pose a threat to their livestock, and, as a consequence, their livelihood.
Reintroduction would not be an immediate process, however. That’s because as long as gray wolves are on the Endangered Species act in Colorado, CPW and other state agencies have no control over their reintroduction.
The animals would have to be delisted first, before they could be reintroduced to the state. A final decision to consider delisting the gray wolf is expected sometime this year.
The following counties are opposed to reintroducing wolves to Colorado: Alamosa, Archuleta, Crowley, Douglas, Fremont, Garfield, Hinsdale, Lincoln, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Rio Blanco, Rio Grande and Routt.
Gray wolves were native to Colorado but were hunted to near extinction by the 1940s. About 6,000 of the animals live in the Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Western Great Lakes.