Gray wolf reintroduction measure is the fourth measure to be certified for the 2020 ballot in Colorado

The office of the Colorado Secretary of State announced on January 6 that the Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative had qualified for the ballot. Proponents submitted 215,370 signatures on December 10, 2019. The office found through a random sample that 65% (around 139,333 signatures) were valid. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.

The measure would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on designated lands in the western part of Colorado by the end of 2023.

The gray wolf, Canis lupus, was classified as a federally endangered species in 1978 (except in Minnesota, where it was classified as threatened). The gray wolf was removed from the endangered lists in Idaho and Montana in 2011. Idaho and Montana began wolf reintroduction programs in 1995.

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF) is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. According to campaign finance reports that covered through September 30, RMWAF had raised about $797,000 in cash and $100,000 in in-kind contributions. Speaking about why they believe gray wolves should be reintroduced in Colorado, RMWAF wrote, “Since the 1940s, when Colorado’s last wolf was killed, our ecosystem has suffered. A lack of natural balance means that too many elk and deer eat away the vegetation that holds streams and rivers back, leading to erosion and the disruption of even more habitats, like those for native beavers and songbirds. Wolves also naturally limit the spread of disease, such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), by taking vulnerable animals out of the population.”

Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition is leading the campaign against the measure. The group has not yet reported campaign finance activity. The Colorado Farm Bureau is also opposed to the measure. CFB Vice President of Advocacy Shawn Martini said, “We remain skeptical that you can introduce wolves into Colorado and not create significant problems. Not only to our way of life here in the state which is based on outdoor recreations but also on livestock production in the western part of the state and to the ecosystem. Colorado is home to a number of endangered species that could be potentially be preyed upon by an apex predatory like the Canadian gray wolf. So we’re skeptical that these kinds of decisions should be put in the hands of voters through a ballot initiative.”

Three other measures are currently certified for the 2020 ballot in Colorado: a citizen-initiated veto referendum to decide whether or not Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact; a citizen-initiated amendment to state in the constitution that only U.S. citizens may vote in Colorado; and a transportation bond issue referred to the ballot by the state legislature.

Proponents are gathering signatures for another initiative in Colorado that would ban abortions after 22 weeks gestational age. Signatures for the measure are due on March 4, 2020.

A total of 108 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado from 1999 through 2019. In that time, 42% (45 of 108) of the total number of measures that appeared on the statewide ballot were approved, and 58% (63 of 108) were defeated.

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Additional reading:
Colorado 2020 ballot measures