Gus R. Halandras: Wolf reintroduction last thing we need
I just read a survey on the internet sponsored by a group called “Lake Research Partners” and “New Bridge Strategy” that claim “that two-thirds of Colorado’s voters favor restoring wolves in Western Colorado.” I am appalled that two-thirds of Colorado’s population is that irresponsible and emotionally ignorant of the true picture.
Allow me to take you back to the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Northwest Colorado had the largest migratory mule deer herd in the world as a permanent fixture in our environment. Rifle, Colorado, even claimed to be the mule deer capitol of the world. As a young man I made a part of my living by guiding deer hunters during part of those years.
Hunting was fantastic — I could guarantee a 24-inch buck every day. It was unbelievable! Then came the 80s, 90s and today. I would not guarantee you a 24-inch buck in one year. The herd disappeared. Where there were several hundred before now there might be 10 today.
All of this is a result of bad decisions made by those in charge. In addition other factors assisted in the demise of the herd such as mother nature having two killing winters back to back and a growing proliferation of predators that massacred over half the fawns born. Throw in cars taking their toll on highways and people pressure everywhere and we lost our magnificent mule deer herd. It will never ever come back to those astounding moments and numbers.
Then in 1971 we became irresponsible and emotional again and legislated the National Wild-Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act. Wild horses and wild burrows were made into political giants not to be managed carefully on public lands. The program was twofold — leave horses and burros to graze freely on the public lands and if the numbers increased severely take the excess and put them on “welfare” for life, adopt a few out but do not destroy a one.
Today we are paying out of the national treasury from $50 million to $75 million annually to support the numbers on welfare pastures. But the worst case scenario is that the ever growing free range numbers on the public lands are creating a dustbowl. Their numbers are increasing faster than the removal process can accommodate. Unmanaged heavy grazing creates desertification — there is no turning back on this — we are destroying the public lands.
Somehow in my mind’s eye I see a similarity to the loss of the deer herd, the wild horse and burro problem and the suggested introduction of the wolf to Western Colorado. Each of these catastrophes started with making the wrong decisions to begin with.
Now Colorado wants to “balance nature” in my back yard. You want to turn the wolves loose on us — to destroy what living wildlife and ranching livelihoods that we have. What stroke of genius can you point to and say that electorate numbers make “right?”
I would say that we don’t want the wolf in Western Colorado and that the “two-thirds” of Colorado better wake up and not force wolves on our state.
There is discussion nation wide that we may have to sell our public lands to pay off our national debt. It would be much more lucrative to sell public lands that aren’t void of grass lost to overgrazing by wild horses. Even an occasional mule deer and elk would be and enhancement to our magnificent public lands.
Do not force another environmental holocaust by bringing in the wolf. There is no advantage nor future with such an effort.
Gus R. Halandras