Opinion: Vote ‘no’ on gray wolf reintroduction to protect wildlife and farmers | SummitDaily.com

Opinion: Vote ‘no’ on gray wolf reintroduction to protect wildlife and farmers

Shawn Martini
Colorado Farm Bureau vice president of advocacy

Proposition 114 would introduce gray wolves into Colorado. This measure goes against expert advice, is unnecessary and prioritizes wolves over essential services. Vote “no” on Proposition 114.

Just this year, Colorado has seen record-breaking wildfires, statewide drought and record heat. We continue to struggle to overcome the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of Coloradans are unemployed, and lawmakers just cut the state budget by $3.3 billion. Add the political and social discord facing our communities, and one can feel overwhelmed.

When faced with stressful times like these, it is important to return to the basics.

Trust the experts. What do the experts say? Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — state and federal agencies dedicated to the responsible management of our natural resources and wildlife — have studied wolves extensively and have rejected wolf introduction multiple times. Parks and Wildlife has spent over $1 million studying wolves. In 1982, 1989, 2005 and 2016, Parks and Wildlife has decided against introducing wolves into the state under Republican and Democratic governors alike. Listen to the experts.

Don’t spend taxpayer money on a process that is already occurring naturally. Wolves are already here. Parks and Wildlife receives more than 100 wolf sighting reports annually. Parks and Wildlife has confirmed multiple wolves living in Colorado. Earlier this year, they confirmed a whole pack living in Northwest Colorado, including newborn pups, as well as a lone wolf in North Park. Our state and federal governments have plans in place to protect these naturally migrating wolves. Humans should not force a natural process. If wolves are already here, and we have a plan in place, do we really need to introduce new wolves?

Keep our priorities straight. Wolf introduction will cost millions of taxpayer dollars at a time when budgets are being slashed. Lawmakers were forced to cut this year’s state budget by $3.3 billion, including serious cuts to education and transportation. Local governments across Colorado are also having to reduce their budgets, including cuts to essential services. We should focus on growing the economy, getting people back to work, and stabilizing funding for classrooms and roads instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars to introduce wolves.

The people pushing this measure, mostly special-interest groups from outside of Colorado, say we need to introduce wolves to restore the ecological balance. With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarky, and the proponents know it. They point to wolf introduction in other states, saying that wolves improved the ecosystem. But just last week, one of the main proponents of the measure was quoted by another media outlet as saying, “We won’t probably see the same thing exactly in Colorado.”

What will happen if wolves are introduced into Colorado? They will prey on our deer, elk and moose herds, which are already below population objectives in many parts of the state. If these herds are already struggling to maintain healthy populations, how will introducing a new apex predator like wolves — who will kill thousands more deer, elk and moose every year — help bring herd numbers up? The proponents can’t say exactly.

Not only will wolves upset the current ecological balance in Colorado, they will also lead to decreased economic activity. Fewer deer, elk and moose mean less hunting revenue. Aside from creating jobs and contributing to local economies across the state, hunting revenue funds wildlife conservation. Parks and Wildlife is already underfunded to the annual tune of $30 million for wildlife and $11 million for parks. Introducing wolves and decreasing hunting revenue will make a bad situation worse.

Further, wolves prey on livestock like cows and sheep. I’ve seen firsthand what predators can do to a cow, and it’s not pretty. Aside from the loss of that individual cow, wolves put stress on the rest of the herd, reducing fertility rates, impacting cattle’s ability to gain and keep weight, and forcing cattle to bunch up, thereby trampling grasses and raising dust. None of this benefits the ecosystem. All it does is hurt our state’s agriculture industry, which is a primary driver of Colorado’s economy.

Farmers and ranchers are used to dealing with changing winds. Between weather, pests, politics and international trade policy, just to name a few, we are always having to adapt. But if I know anything, it is that when the future feels as uncertain as it does today, you return to the basics. You listen to the experts. You vote “no” on Proposition 114.

Shawn Martini is the vice president of advocacy for the Colorado Farm Bureau and a spokesperson for the Coloradans Protecting Wildlife campaign. 

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