Wolves and Public Policy
What do we need to know to understand what the ballot initiative says and means?
An initiative for reintroducing the gray wolf is slated to be on Colorado’s 2020 ballot. Everyone agrees that intentionally bringing wolves back to their native range in Colorado will be complicated. By going on this Quest, you now know more about the complexity of this issue than most Colorado citizens and voters. Now let’s figure out what the ballot initiative actually says.
Discussions about the potential wolf reintroduction are happening across Colorado. You can hear about it on TV news reports and read about it in news articles and opinion pieces. Here is a report from one Colorado TV channel. What other recent TV reports or articles can you find?
Why is a ballot initiative being pursued for the reintroduction of gray wolves in Colorado?
The gray wolf is considered extirpated, meaning it is a species that was forcibly eliminated from its natural range. It has been listed as a protected and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, which is enforced by the US Fish and Wildlife Agency. Significant efforts have been made to re-establish the gray wolf in other Rocky Mountain states. However, Colorado has not been included in these efforts because it is not prioritized as a restoration habitat under federal restoration and conservation plans. The result is that gray wolf populations are now established north of Colorado in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The Mexican wolf has been reintroduced south of Colorado in New Mexico. Colorado represents the last one-state gap in this Rocky Mountain range. The ballot initiative has been introduced to provide citizens with a voice in determining whether or not to bring wolves back to Colorado.
- Read the ballot title and summarize in your own words.
- Make a two-column table to organize arguments for and against the initiative described on the website.
- Who supports the initiative? Summarize their arguments in your own words.
- Who opposes the initiative? Summarize their arguments in your own words.
- Add additional arguments for and against the initiative that you are now aware of from your Quest.
- Read the full ballot initiative. For each of the FIVE sections, state its purpose in one sentence.
- Read through the ballot initiative to identify how it addresses the different perspectives. Recall the citizens from the Colorado Public Forum:
- Business owner
- Government official
- Native American (Ute, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Jigarilla Apache)
- Outdoor recreation enthusiast
- Wildlife biologist
- Wildlife/conservation organization
- Wildlife manager from Colorado Dept. of Parks and Wildlife
Record any other information from the initiative that you think is important to remember.
What does being on the Endangered Species List mean for the wolf in Colorado?
The gray wolf was listed as an endangered species in 1974. This classification means the species was in danger of disappearing or going extinct in its natural habitat unless special measures were put in place to protect it. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a federal law that protects species (plants and animals) that are considered threatened and endangered. It is enforced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for land-based species, and by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) for marine species. Under the ESA, species are protected in particular locations and can be ‘delisted’ in areas where their populations have demonstrated sufficient growth to support their survival.
The gray wolf population has been restored in some western states, so the USFWS has turned over management of wolves to state wildlife agencies. These state agencies now have the authority to determine and monitor management practices, including conditions for hunting seasons and plans for handling animals that are problematic to people.
There is currently no permanent wolf population in Colorado, but a few individuals have wandered into our state temporarily from their northern range. A wolf sighting in Grand County during July 2019 was confirmed by the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife! When this happens, the state has no authority to manage the animal. Instead, the animal is protected and managed under the ESA by the federal US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Colorado Restore Gray Wolf Population Initiative (2020) would turn wolf management authority over to the state, and require the state wildlife agency, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, to develop and implement a wolf reintroduction plan.