Letter to the editor: Vote ‘yes’ on reintroduction of wolves in Colorado
I wrote my research paper at Colorado Mountain College on Proposition 114, gray wolf reintroduction. This is what I learned:
The gray wolf was once common in Colorado but was exterminated by humans in the early 20th century. Proposition 114 proposes gray wolf reintroduction to public lands west of the Continental Divide by 2023. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission would carry out the planned reintroduction, ongoing management and compensation for livestock losses.
The lack of natural predators has led to exponential growth of deer, moose and elk causing overgrazing, particularly in riparian areas where they feed on willows along the riverbanks, causing the riverbanks to erode, adding sediment to the water, widening streams and increasing temperatures. Erika Moore with the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center explains: “Bringing back wolves is hopefully going to have the same effect it did in Yellowstone where it actually revived the ecosystem.”
For 75 years, there were no wolves in Yellowstone. Vast tracks of land with willow and aspen were overgrazed. Reintroduced 25 years ago, the not-so-bad wolf has helped to control over populations of deer, moose and elk, and it improved riparian environments to create better habitat for birds and beavers and improved aquatic health.
Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s senior wolf biologist, explains: “Wolves are key players in wild ecosystems that help regulate the populations of other wildlife, and if the goal is having a full complement of original species as an expression of a complete ecosystem, we have success. Humans have been the biggest beneficiary. If we can do it with wolves, we can do it with a lot of issues that divide us.”
Colorado could benefit from wolf reintroduction including thriving, balanced ecosystems of animals and plants as well as animal and human coexistence.
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