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CO: Proposition 114, on reintroduction of gray wolves, still too close to call as of noon Wednesday

Marianne Goodland, Colorado Politics

Ten of the 11 statewide ballot measures show comfortable leads and wins, according to unofficial results as of noon Wednesday. The 11th, however, is still too close to call.

“Yes” votes on Proposition 114, which would require the state Division of Parks and Wildlife to come up with a plan for the reintroduction of gray wolves, lead by just .34-percentage points, according to unofficial results as of noon Wednesday.

The measure’s approval leads by 9,785 votes out of 2.8 million cast.

An automatic recount, based on a half-percentage point of the winning votes, would be triggered by a margin of 7,071 votes or less.

The measure so far has won wide approval from voters in Front Range counties where wolves would not be located, and garnered little support from the places where wolves have already been sighted. The measure requires wolf reintroduction west of the Continental Divide. It also requires compensation for ranchers and others whose livestock herds are attacked by wolves. 

Prop 114 is backed by the Rocky Mountain Wolf Fund, which claims reintroduction will reduce elk and deer herds that are overpopulated and which have had other harmful impacts on habitats. Opponents, including Farm Bureau chapters in Colorado, say voters should not be making these kinds of decisions, and warn of the risks of wolves moving into recreational areas of the state. 

Wolves, including an entire pack, have already been sighted in northwest and northern Colorado. Ranchers have pointed out that they cannot take care of wolf problems on their own, given that the species was protected under the Endangered Species Act. However, the Trump administration removed that protection last Friday.

The delisting announcement pointed out that wolves have expanded into western Oregon, western Washington, northern California and most recently in northwest Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Windsor applauded the delisting in the Department of Interior statement. “Thank you to Secretary Bernhardt for making a decision based on science and facts to delist the gray wolf from the List of Endangered Species,. State and local officials are better equipped to make important decisions about how best to manage wildlife populations while protecting farmers, ranchers, and businesses,” Buck added. The move also won praise from the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese.

“In Colorado, we are eager to return to the long-standing policy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife sitting at the table with local governments and the agriculture industry to write a wolf management plan that protects the customs, culture, and local economy of the communities most directly affected by wolves,” according to a statement from the Moffat County commissioners.

The delisting goes into effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.