The decision to bring back wolves to Colorado could end up in the hands of the state’s voters next year. An initiative to to put wolf reintroduction on 2020 ballots has garnered momentum and sparked a conversation about the benefits and drawbacks of the animal’s return.
Ahead of that possible ballot item, the Colorado Sierra Club is on a campaign to educate Coloradans about wolves. The club is hosting an educational event Friday night in Glenwood Springs, which will include a screening of “Epic Yellowstone: Return of the Predators,” and a short talk from Sierra Club wildlife chair Delia Malone, who also works as an ecologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program.
Malone said she has found overwhelming support for reintroduction.
“People are passionate about returning our natural heritage, Malone said. “A part that is so iconic and makes such a difference in the wildness of Colorado.”
The documentary that will show on Friday night follows a year in the lives of wolves and grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park, which were returned to the park in an ambitious reintroduction effort. Malone says a reintroduction effort in Colorado would have widespread effects, starting with keeping deer and elk populations in check.
“When they moderate those populations, when they push them out and make them move, vegetation can recover. When that vegetation can recover, that vegetation provides habitat for a myriad of other native species.”
Malone also addressed concerns held by many who oppose wolf reintroduction. Opponents say wolves would pose a threat to livestock and the livelihoods of ranchers. Malone pointed to studies that show strikingly low numbers of cattle and sheep killings in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where wolves and livestock both live.
She also said that wolf reintroduction in Colorado would come with coexistence strategies and a plan to compensate ranchers who lose livestock to wolves.
“We want to keep wolves alive, and we want to keep ranchers whole,” Malone said.
Friday night’s event begins at 6 p.m. at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley Campus in Glenwood Springs.