Government Must Promote Biodiversity, Not Private Interests
Colorado and the entire American West have gone through a massive transformation over the past 150 years. Westward expansion came at the expense of Native Americans, wildlife, forests and entire ecosystems. Buffalo were nearly driven into extinction on the American plains, which caused the death and displacement of thousands of Native Americans.
Wolves, cougars, coyotes and grizzly bears were all demonized by cattlemen and sheepherders.
Forests, including much of California’s giant sequoias, were cut down to build homes and create more space for agriculture. Afterall, it was America’s manifest destiny. Our forefathers and their offspring were brainwashed into thinking that they were on a mission from God. Unfortunately, they were on a mission to capitalize on, and destroy, everything that God created.
Unfortunately, much of the damage cannot be undone. Fortunately, citizens across the American West are rising up and demanding accountability. They are demanding restoration where possible. We have a very long way to go, but it all starts with our collective conscience and our common compass.
Colorado, for example, just took an important step backward in time. A majority of citizens just passed an initiative to restore native wolf populations west of the Continental Divide–Colorado’s western slope. It will be the first time in nearly 80 years that wolves will be officially welcome in Colorado.
Thanks to voter approval, Proposition 114 directs state wildlife managers to reintroduce gray wolves to the Western Slope.
According to supporters, it’s the first time voters — in any state — have decided whether to bring back an endangered species.
The new law requires the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on designated lands west of the continental divide by the end of 2023. The commission must:
- Develop a plan to reintroduce gray wolves using the best scientific data available;
- Hold hearings across the state to gather information to be used in developing the plan;
- Update the plan after obtaining public input periodically; and
- Reintroduce wolves on designated lands by December 31, 2023.
The commission will determine the exact location of wolf reintroductions. The Flat Tops Wilderness area and the Weminuche Wilderness area both demand consideration.
The measure directs the state legislature to fund the reintroduction program. The commission will compensate owners of livestock for any losses caused by wolves. The commission cannot impose any new restrictions on private landowners regarding land, water, or resource use to support the plan. The commission must prepare a report with data on the potential economic and ecological impacts of reintroduction, projected survival rates of the animals being reintroduced, and the potential impacts of not reintroducing the animal.
Gray wolves perform important ecological functions that impact other plants and animals. Without them, deer and elk can over-graze sensitive habitats such as riverbanks, leading to declines in ecosystem health. Leftover prey can also provide food for other scavengers such as birds and smaller mammals.
In addition to the proven benefits that wolves bring to ecosystems, they can help contain chronic wasting disease among deer, elk and moose.
Wolves can take down sick animals faster than left alone to die of the disease. Since the bodily fluids and tissue of sick animals are infectious, the sooner that sick animals are taken down the better. This can help minimize prion contamination in the environment (it appears that wolves are resistant, if not immune, to prion disease). Most mammals, including humans, are not immune to prion disease. Infected wildlife can infect each other, livestock and humans. It’s a vicious circle that is being mismanaged in many ways. Wolves can help minimize prion pathways.
Wolves can help support a healthy environment upon which Coloradans depend. Reintroduction is necessary to ensure that a permanent gray wolf population is restored to western Colorado. Through eradication efforts such as bounty programs, gray wolves were eliminated in Colorado by the 1940s. While there have been sightings in Colorado, it is uncertain gray wolves will establish a permanent population on their own. The measure aligns with other states’ successful recovery efforts while considering Colorado’s interests.”
Gray wolves once inhabited most of the U.S., including Colorado. By the 1930s, gray wolves were eradicated from most of the western U.S, due to predator control programs and habitat destruction. As mentioned earlier, a trapper killed last gray wolves in Colorado around 1940.
Read More About Wolf Reintroduction In Colorado.