POINT | 114’s ‘ballot box biology’ will backfire

{child_byline}Bob Beauprez{/child_byline}

There are many reasons to oppose Proposition 114, a radical plan to introduce gray wolves in western Colorado via ballot-box biology. Not the least of those reasons is the fact that gray wolves are already here.

Also read: COUNTERPOINT | Don’t be afraid of the big, bad wolf

Gray wolves, an apex predator, have been in Colorado for years, enjoying a wolf-friendly habitat and plentiful food sources — and the population is increasing. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has confirmed their presence in northwestern Colorado and gets more than 100 reports of wolf sightings each year.

COVID-19 has already blown a $3.3 billion hole in the state budget, forcing deep cuts in funding essential services like education, roads and bridges. When money is already tight, does it make sense to spend millions to “introduce” a notoriously vicious predator that is already here?

If that isn’t confounding enough, consider this irony: The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is a highly respected authority on wildlife habitat and species management. The subject of wolf introduction is not new to CPW. Four separate times CPW has studied the issue —1982, 1989, 2004 and 2016 — investing over a million dollars in exhaustive scientific research. Each time, the CPW Commission reached the same conclusion — opposing the reintroduction of wolves. Yet, Prop. 114 would force CPW to do what they already have determined — four times — is wrong for Colorado.

Prop 114 exacerbates a rural-urban divide in Colorado that is already deep and raw. Too often, folks who call rural Colorado home feel forgotten, abused, misunderstood and ignored. While the vast majority of the money behind 114 has come from out-of-state radicals, the petitions were circulated in the dense urban centers. That’s easy to figure.

While it is obvious where the push behind this misguided measure comes from, wolves won’t be introduced anywhere near the I-25 corridor. Prop 114 mandates introduction “west of the Continental Divide” — where CPW has certified wolves are already established. Coloradans should not be misled by environmental extremists and should vote no on a ballot measure that will seriously disrupt the way of life for farmers, ranchers, hunters, fisherman and all residents across western Colorado. It’s just wrong!

Wolf migration into Colorado was a foregone conclusion after the federal government forcibly introduced Canadian gray wolves into Idaho, Montana and Wyoming 25 years ago. Specifically, a small group of 35 were released in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness in 1995. From that nucleus, the population exploded and is now estimated at 1,500 or more, with as many as 100 established packs across the entire state.

In Idaho alone, thousands of livestock including cattle, horses, sheep, llamas, dogs, mules and goats have been confirmed killed by wolf predation. Among cattle traumatized by frequent wolf attacks, researchers at Oregon State University documented reduced pregnancy rates, smaller birth weights, and a higher propensity for sickness including a neurological condition they likened to human PTSD.

Colorado is home to America’s largest elk herd, a source of great pride and enjoyment for our state. The majestic creatures attract thousands of tourists and hunters each year, resulting in significant revenue for the state. The herd may not last though, if Idaho’s experience is any indication. There, the once abundant elk and deer herds have altered migration and grazing patterns because of wolf predation. Half of the backcountry big game outfitters have closed their doors according to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, and those remaining report a 50% decline in business because the wildlife is gone.

Like many other seemingly well-intended ideas, the consequences of Prop 114 overwhelm any perceived benefits. Let’s not force nature’s hand with special-interest, divisive politics. Put Colorado first and vote NO on Proposition 114!

Bob Beauprez, a Colorado native, former member of Congress and two-time Republican nominee for governor, operates a family bison ranch in northern Colorado.

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