Just last month, the Trump administration had stripped the wolves from the Endangered Species Act protections only to be voted in by a slim margin by the Coloradans.
In a historic move, the people of Colorado have voted to reintroduce gray wolves back into the wild. It has been over seven decades since the wolves disappeared in the state after being shot, trapped, and poisoned to near-extinction for development activities and livestock. Just last month the Trump administration had stripped the wolves from the Endangered Species Act protections only to be voted in by a slim margin by the Coloradans. There was only half of 1 percentage point difference between the vote for and against reintroducing the wolves, reported NPR, even though supporters assumed they would sail to victory.
Voters seemed to be wary of wolves who once called North America home. They occupied the top of the food chain and with them gone, the ecosystem has been in disarray. The movement to reintroduce the wolves will be led by The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department. They aim to establish a sustainable population of wolves in the western part of Colorado, in the Southern Rocky Mountains which is millions of acres that will serve as a suitable habitat. It is the same place where the wolves once thrived and can now support several hundred wolves. The project is set to reintroduce and manage gray wolves by the end of 2023, according to National Geographic.
A successful ballot measure will make Colorado the first state where voters direct the reintroduction of gray wolves rather than the federal government, which previously brought wolves back to the northern Rockies, New Mexico, Arizona and the Carolinas. https://t.co/AjhecodAYb— NPR (@NPR) November 7, 2020
“The decision to remove critical protections for still-recovering gray wolves is dangerously short-sighted, especially in the face of an extinction and biodiversity crisis,” Bonnie Rice, senior representative for Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign, said in a statement. “We should be putting more effort into coexistence with wolves and reinstating endangered species protections critical for their full recovery.” Proposition 114 was on the ballot in Colorado as an initiated state statute on November 3.
Coloradans have voted to pass Proposition #114- The Restoration of Gray Wolves. With this decision, the planning process for reintroduction will begin.— Colorado Parks and Wildlife (@COParksWildlife) November 6, 2020
Learn about wolves in Colorado: https://t.co/jkkNRT6ouk pic.twitter.com/Ei5pIM3lLX
"This is an up or down vote," Edward told NPR. "If the people of Colorado say we want wolves, the next step is to lean into that reality and find a common path forward." Many of the rural voters were concerned the wolves would kill their cattle and voted against the reintroduction. A similar project was carried out in Yellowstone national park in 1995 where wolves were reintroduced successfully. A similar blueprint will be adopted for the Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative as well. It restored the ecological integrity in the national park located in the northwest corner of Wyoming and beyond.
A rewilding triumph: wolves help to reverse Yellowstone degradation https://t.co/1MehjRFSIs— The Guardian (@guardian) January 25, 2020
“We do worry about that, but there’s not a whole lot we can do about that because wolves will go where they see habitat,” Eric Washburn, a campaign manager at the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, the advocacy group behind the proposition told The Guardian. “But the good news is, there are 17m acres of public land habitat in western Colorado.” For Washburn, the Yellowstone national park is a living laboratory for the new project, especially after it was hailed as one of the world’s greatest rewilding stories. What makes the decision unique is that it is the first time ever a species would be introduced via the ballot box.