Legislative attempts to control how wolves are formally reintroduced in Colorado make little sense from a wildlife management perspective.
Since that’s the bottom line, we view House Bill 1037 as “statement” legislation. It’s served its purpose if it passes or not. But this bill feels a lot like two wrongs trying to make a right. Having made a good point, we hope lawmakers will quickly realize that trifling with Mother Nature is a fool’s errand.
Under House Bill 1037, introduced into the Colorado Legislature last week, the gray wolf could only be introduced into those counties where voters approved Proposition 114 on last fall’s ballot, which called for the reintroduction of the animals by 2023.
We’ve always thought “biology by ballot box” is a bad idea. But the voters have spoken and they want the state to reintroduce wolves on the Western Slope and manage them. For lawmakers to trail behind seeking to punish pro-wolf counties seems as misguided as letting voters decide the issue in the first place.
We’ll grant that there’s a sense of poetic justice in putting wolves only in counties where the measure passed. But because Proposition 114 limits reintroduction to counties west of the Continental Divide, the wolves won’t be released anywhere near the Front Range.
As the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported in Sunday’s paper, the Western Slope counties where voters approved 114 are Pitkin, Summit, San Miguel, San Juan and La Plata counties.
Are those the best places to release the wolves? That’s a decision, we believe, best made by biologists, not by politicians. If passed, this bill would handcuff the state’s wildlife managers before they can do their due diligence.
But the bigger point is that wolves don’t care about boundaries. The pack that established a toehold in Moffat County is thought to have migrated from northern Wyoming. Just because the wolves are released near Durango or Aspen is no guarantee that they won’t lope hundreds of mile in any direction seeking the environment they crave.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Soper, R-Delta, said wolves are a threat to western Colorado’s economies and way of life. He may be entirely right, but forcing CPW to limit releases to a few spots on the Western Slope isn’t going to change their impact over the long haul.
This bill attempts to close the barn door long after the horse has bolted. It’s an interesting political exercise, nevertheless, to see if rural lawmakers can band together on an issue that encapsulates the rural-urban divide in this state.
We’ll know more, perhaps, after the bill gets its first committee hearing in the House Energy & Environment Committee on Thursday.