I really don’t understand the public’s fixation on wolves. The species was pretty much eradicated in the early 20th century because rural America found them to be dangerous and destructive. Ranchers had one less problem to deal with. Then the Endangered Species Act came along in the 1970s and the government was tasked with reintroducing wolves back into our lives.
So, they started with Yellowstone National Park, a good remote location where they wouldn’t cause any real problems. Over time the gray wolf started migrating and now they’ve been spotted in many Western states, including Colorado.
A couple weeks ago the Trump administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) took the gray wolf off the endangered species list, claiming that the apex predator had reached their recovery goals. And it didn’t take long for the conservation groups to stand up and cry foul.
Taking wolves off the endangered species list would turn wolf management over to the states. Some states with ample populations have hunting seasons, which suggests a sustainable population. Wolves have recovered well enough in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming that they have hunting seasons for the 140-pound canine.
Roughly 14 environmental litigation groups filed suit last week to stop the Trump administration effort to remove them from the endangered species list, claiming USFWS used bad science to support their removal decision.
An Earth Justice attorney said in a press release, “Wolves are only starting to get a toe hold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast. This decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy—and its illegal, so we will see them in court.” I would like to see how wolves would work out in the Northeast part of the country. New York would be a good place to start.
Wolves without question have taken hold and are reproducing and still causing havoc for cattle and sheep ranchers. You ranchers don’t necessarily fit into the wolf recovery plan of these so-called conservation groups. Folks have tried everything in the book to keep livestock and wolves away from each other. Ever since they reintroduced wolves in the West there have been nothing but problems.
Colorado voters approved the reintroduction of wolves in the state with a ballot measure in the last election. Ironically, Colorado already has wolves in the northwest part of the state, and I understand they have migrated into the Black Hills of South Dakota.
But as in most elections, the urban voters have the ballot power and can influence rural communities that have to deal with the wolf problem. So, Denver and Boulder voters approved a plan to introduce wolves on the west slope of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
It’s bizarre that an issue like this can even get on the ballot. But voters barely passed it with a 49-50 split; just 20,000 votes brought us wolves. And we’ll have them by the end of 2023.
The problem will be control. They will collar a few, and drop them off on public lands and that will be it. Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and other ranch and farm groups plan on being the slow movers in the upcoming process, which will spell out all the details of how many, where they will be released, monitoring them and their effect on the states prized elk herds.
The plan provides for compensation to livestock producers for dead stock, but that has been so difficult to get compensated in other states that most stockmen don’t even bother.
We heard of one compensation plan called the European plan where landowners get paid for letting them occupy their property but also get paid when there is a taking. These wolves will be released on public lands, but we all know they will be on private lands quickly because that is where the food source will be, especially in winter months.
Colorado is a well-populated state. Lots of folks want to live in the mountains, which is prime habitat for wolves. You could say the rural-urban interface is starting to vanish in Colorado. These wolves will migrate to the Front Range over time and we’ll see them running around Boulder someday.
It makes no sense to me to introduce more wolves into Colorado when they are already here. They will be in every state over time if they continue to be protected by the federal government. Still the best wolf policy is to shoot, shovel, and shut up—SOS. — PETE CROW