By Michael Cox Special to the Montrose Daily Press
Three major livestock producing organizations in Colorado announced on Monday they have formed Coloradans Protecting Wildlife. The coalition is in the early staging of the pushback against the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project’s petitioning for the reintroduction of wolves into Colorado, specifically in the San Juan Mountains.
The three groups are the Colorado Farm Bureau (CFB), Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), and Colorado Wool Growers’ Association (CWGA). They announced the formation of an “Issue Committee” against the proposed 2020 ballot measure that would require the introduction of wolves into Colorado.
The organizations represent thousands of livestock producers and farmers in the state. The members of these groups possess centuries of combined experience working on wildlife and land management issues.
Although the introduction of wolves in the state will greatly impact the agriculture industry, the coalition also expresses concerns for the wildlife of the state, which they say will be severely impacted by the wolf plantings.
“Organizations across the state are joining forces and encouraging Coloradans to rethink introducing the wolf,” said Chad Vorthmann, executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau. “The decision about whether or not to introduce wolves to Colorado should be guided by science and left in the hands of experts, not the ballot box.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) turned thumbs down on the Colorado Wolf Project and the plan to release 50 wolves in the San Juan Mountains in the first phase of a larger reintroduction of the canine predator.
When shunned by the CPW, the wolf group took petitions to the public in an effort to get the matter on the 2020 ballot. Indications are that the matter will attract enough signatures and will appear on the November 2020 ballot. About 160,000 signatures are needed for the matter to go to the vote of the general electorate.
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project reports 170,000 signings but wants to get 200,000.
“The proposed 2020 initiative would ignore long-standing scientific processes, research and expert guidance by forcing the introduction of the wolf into Colorado without any analysis of the potential negative impacts on Colorado’s environment and ecosystems, or its citizens,” the new group stated.
“It’s far too risky, not only for humans and livestock populations in the state but wildlife as well,” said Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
“The claim that wolves will create balance for the environment is misleading. Politically-charged wolf introduction ignores the responsible stewardship Coloradans have worked hard to implement.”
The idea of introducing wolves to the state is not a new one. The CCA, CFB and CWGA have previously worked with CPW to develop a “free-ranging” wolf plan, including necessary management strategies to ensure gray wolves that enter Colorado from other states are protected, yet do not endanger animals or people that they may come in contact with.
Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Washington are presently dealing with the conflict between the predators and livestock and wildlife. Losses for wildlife and livestock in eastern Washington became so bad that the Washington authorities had to kill off a small rogue pack of wolves. In Idaho, the wolf problem created a drop in the elk population of 75 percent.
Coloradans Protecting Wildlife intends to educate voters about the pitfalls of wolves introduced to Colorado’s landscapes and urge them to leave species management up to wildlife biologists and the relevant state and federal agencies.
“Wolf introduction in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana has had a devastating impact on livestock producers,” said Bonnie Brown, executive director of the Colorado Wool Growers Association. “We will fight for our members and do everything we can to protect their livelihood.”