Western Colorado is wary of gray wolf reintroduction. Will they have to pay for it, too?
The current funding plan for gray wolf reintroduction would rely on license fees paid by hunters and anglers, many of whom live in the western Colorado communities that opposed Proposition 114.
When Colorado voters in November narrowly passed a ballot initiative to reintroduce gray wolves in western Colorado, detractors said it was a prime example of the state’s deepening rural-urban divide.
It was urban voters on the Front Range who pushed the measure to passage, over the objections of rural and ranching Colorado. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to make sure the cost of the project is carried by everyone.
They are pushing House Bill 1243, legislation that would change and broaden the source of funds to pay for gray wolf reintroduction.
“The cost of implementing Proposition 114 should be equitable and shared amongst all of Colorado,” said state Rep. Perry Will, a New Castle Republican and former state wildlife officer.
Currently, the costs of implementing gray wolf reintroduction would come from the Wildlife Cash Fund, which is primarily funded by license fees paid by hunters and anglers.
“The cost should not be shouldered by sportsmen alone. I think this bill … can go a long way in rebuilding trust, and narrowing that rural and urban divide,” Will said. “I think there’s just a plain and simple fairness issue.”
Proposition 114 was approved by a slim 1.82 percentage point margin — and directed the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop and implement a plan to oversee the restoration and management of a self-sustaining gray wolf population by 2023. As part of the initiative, the state must help livestock owners prevent conflict with wolves and compensate owners for livestock losses.
Farmers, ranchers and hunters argued that introducing the predators could hurt rural economies that rely on livestock and hunting. Other opponents argued the issue should be left to wildlife managers, not voters.
Advocates, however, said that reintroducing the animals to Colorado would complete a regional connection for existing gray wolf populations in the Northern Rockies to packs in New Mexico and Arizona. Wolves that naturally migrated have been confirmed several times in northern Colorado in the last year. Though wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list last year, the animals still are considered endangered in Colorado.
To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.
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