ColoradoWhy a Forced Wolf Introduction is a Bad Idea

Colorado’s economy, elk population, conservation funding, hunting industry and resident taxpayer dollars are in the crosshairs. An environmental extremist-driven ballot initiative aims to force an introduction of wolves onto the Colorado landscape even though Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed a natural migrating, active pack in the northwest part of the state.

Proponents are offering zero funding for wolf management, livestock or pet depredation, deterrent measures, research or other costs. Yet they expect Colorado taxpayers and hunters to foot a bill that will be millions upon millions of dollars. As outdoorsmen and women who care about wildlife and our wild landscapes, we must unite and fight against this measure.

Official News Release

WHY A FORCED COLORADO WOLF INTRODUCTION IS A BAD IDEA

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Colorado’s economy, elk population, conservation funding, hunting industry and resident taxpayer dollars are in the crosshairs. An environmental extremist-driven ballot initiative aims to force an introduction of wolves onto the Colorado landscape even though Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed a natural migrating, active pack in the northwest part of the state.

“Ballot box biology is reckless. In this particular case, it totally undermines the authority of Colorado’s wildlife professionals who have said time and time again over several decades that a forced wolf introduction is a bad idea,” said Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “As an organization, RMEF pledges to do all in our power to educate voters about the significant, real-life, detrimental impacts of such an effort.”

RMEF first warned about the initiative proposal three years ago. Since then, environmental extremists have raised more than $1 million, the lion’s share of it from out-of-state donors, to gather and deliver 215,000 (of nearly six million residents) petition signatures to the Colorado secretary of state. Staffers later deemed 76,037 or 35.3 percent of projected signatures as invalid but approved the measure for the 2020 ballot by a projected margin of 1.8 percent.

Colorado is home to the largest elk herd in North America, yet researchers in the southwest part of the state are trying to figure out why elk recruitment is ailing.

RMEF has a long history in Colorado. Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 782 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects with a combined value of more than $177.7 million. These projects protected or enhanced 468,068 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 122,107 acres. There are also more than 17,000 RMEF members and 28 chapters in the state.

“Proponents are offering zero funding for wolf management, livestock or pet depredation, deterrent measures, research or other costs. Yet they expect Colorado taxpayers and hunters to foot a bill that will be millions upon millions of dollars. As outdoorsmen and women who care about wildlife and our wild landscapes, we must unite and fight against this measure,” added Weaver.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded more than 35 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.9 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.


FACTS

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office confirmed an Initiative sponsored by extreme environmental groups calling for a forced introduction of wolves into Colorado will appear on the 2020 state ballot.  RMEF strongly opposes this ballot initiative. Here’s why:

$6 million in new spending for unnecessary wolf initiative during COVID-19-related budget shortfall

  • COVID-19 triggers major detrimental impacts on health, employment, education & higher education, revenue generation, tourism, tax collections and other wide-ranging aspects of Colorado’s economy for fiscal year 2020-2021.
  • Original projections of COVID-19’s impact on Colorado’s state budget ballooned from $300 million to $800 million to $1 billion and now $3 billion (or 10 percent of the state’s $30 billion budget), yet the full impact may not be known for months or even years.

 

Wolf ballot initiative proponents ignore the massive revenue shortfall, offer no funding for their measure & continue to push a forced wolf introduction projected to cost Coloradans $6 million in NEW spending.

  • Colorado’s General Assembly is tentatively scheduled to resume its session in mid-May. Unlike the federal government, Colorado may not borrow money or deficit spend but is constitutionally obligated to pass a balanced state budget “spending only what it has available to it each year in revenue and savings.
  • A Legislative Council Staff memorandum indicates enacting voter-approved tax increases, reducing state spending on a temporary or permanent basis, using “rainy day” funds, refinancing expenditures, etc. as options to deal with a budgetary shortfall.
  • During economic struggles, the demand for local/state/federal human services may rise significantly contributing to budgetary pressures.
  • Tax filing deadline extended to July 15 so the state is unable to gather additional revenue until then.
  • As of April 1, 2020, the budgets of some cities and towns are ailing.

 

Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) already confirms an active wolf pack in northwest Colorado

  • 1/8/2020: Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) reports an eyewitness account (including video) indicated a likely presence of multiple wolves in Moffat County in northwest Colorado
  • 1/22/2020: CPW confirms a previous wolf sighting is Moffat County is likely an active wolf pack of at least six wolves
  • 2/13/2020: CPW cites genetic tests confirm the presence of wolves in Moffat County
  • 3/10/2020: CPW announces wolf pack is again verified with an additional sighting, this time with seven wolves
  • After the initial release of 34 wolves into central Idaho in 1995-96, wolves naturally spread throughout Idaho and across state lines into Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. Professional and state federal wildlife managers saw no need to artificially introduce more wolves for the sake of genetic diversity or for any other reason as those wolves continue to multiply on their own. At last count minimum estimated populations number 1,000 wolves in Idaho, 900 in Montana, 158 in Oregon, 145 in Washington and 7-10 in California.
  • Given the recent and past history, other wolf packs either may already be in Colorado, on the verge of entering Colorado or individual members of the current Colorado pack may break off and create their own packs.
  • 2019: CPW confirmed the sighting of a collared wolf in Jackson County from Wyoming
    • At last word, it is still in Colorado
  • Additional past sightings:
    • 2015: small-game hunter mistakenly killed what he thought was a coyote near Wolford Mountain Reservoir, a few miles north of Kremmling. After an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agency biologists positively identified the animal as a gray wolf.
    • 2015: a trail camera near Walden captured photos of an animal that appeared to be a wolf
    • 2009: a radio-collared gray wolf was found dead north of Rifle
    • 2007: two CPW wildlife officers captured video of an animal with strong wolf-like characteristics along the Colorado-Wyoming border, a few miles north of Walden
    • 2004: wolf killed in a vehicle collision on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs

 

CPW, the recognized professional authority overseeing wildlife management, is already on the record as “opposed to the intentional release of any wolves into Colorado”

  • Independent polling shows:
    • 92 percent of Coloradans have a favorable opinion of CPW
    • 63 percent of Coloradans believe state wildlife professionals can do a better job managing wildlife than voters
    • 62 percent of Coloradans believe state wildlife professionals can do a better job managing wildlife than court judges or animal rights activists
  • CPW addressed wolf introduction in 1982, 1989, 2004 & 2016 and opposed an introduction each time.
  • The North American Wildlife Conservation Model maintains wildlife is managed by state and federal agencies for its overall health and betterment and to benefit the public.
    • Principles implemented from the above model led the most successful & robust wildlife populations in the world.
    • “Ballot box biology,” or having uneducated, non-wildlife management professionals decide such an issue flies in the face of the model.
    • Animal rights lawyer, signature gatherer & initiative proponent Larry Weiss said this,
    • “That definitely should be decided by the people and not by the scientists. Then we take it to the scientists to implement…”
    • The Grand Junction Sentinel editorial board wrote: “We don’t self-diagnose whether we need cholesterol-lowering medication or have faulty heart valves. When it comes to medicine or legal matters, we rely on the fiduciary responsibility of professionals to act in our best interests. We urge voters to decline to support the petition…we think that’s for the experts to decide.”

 

CPW is legislatively mandated to NOT comment on the initiative so Colorado’s most informed scientific wildlife management voices are forced to be silent

  • Colorado Game, Fish & Forestry Department was established in 1897 (eventually became CPW)
  • CPW is a nationally leader in conservation, outdoor recreation and wildlife management & is recognized as the expert regarding wildlife and wildlife management in Colorado.
  • The mission of Colorado Parks and Wildlife is to perpetuate the wildlife resources of the state, provide a quality parks system, and provide enjoyable and sustainable recreation opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations to actively participate in the conservation of Colorado’s natural resources.
  • CPW manages all of Colorado’s wildlife, 41​ state parks, more than 350 state wildlife areas and a host of recreational programs.
  • CPW issues hunting and fishing licenses, conducts research to improve wildlife management activities, protects high priority wildlife habitat through acquisitions and partnerships, provides technical assistance to private and other public landowners concerning wildlife and habitat management and develops programs to understand, protect and recover threatened and endangered species.
  • CPW addressed wolf introduction in 1982, 1989, 2004 & 2016 and opposed an introduction each time.
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s position on Initiative 107:
    • “CPW is subject to the provisions of Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act (CRS § 1-45-117). Employees of Colorado Parks and Wildlife can’t express a personal opinion on a ballot issue or measure during work time. Additionally, employees can’t work on a ballot initiative during work time and are prohibited from purporting to convey any opinion on any ballots on behalf of the State, the Department of Natural Resources or CPW.”

 

CPW already has a management plan in place for naturally migrating wolves

Creation of the Colorado Wolf Management Plan for natural migrating wolves was a seven-month process in 2004 by a 14-member working group made up of two wildlife biologists, four wildlife advocates, four livestock producers, two sportsmen and two local government officials. It includes these recommendations:

  • Migrating wolves will live where they find habitat & distribution will take place according to ecological needs & social tolerance.
  • Lethal & non-lethal management methods will be used to deal with problem-causing wolves.
  • Wolf monitoring is essential.
  • Work toward solutions that avoid or mitigate wolf-livestock conflicts & allow livestock producers to use non-lethal management measures to reduce wolf-livestock conflict.
  • CDOW (Colorado Department of Wildlife now known as Colorado Parks and Wildlife) to operate a wolf damage fund for livestock losses but funds should not be derived from sportsmen’s dollars or encroach upon other game damage payment programs.
  • CDOW to bring the wolf into existing management programs for other carnivores like mountain lions and black bears.
  • CDOW to work cooperatively with other agencies, organizations, and the private sector to achieve wolf management goals in a proactive manner.
  • CDOW should develop and implement an information, education and public outreach program to parallel wolf management activities in Colorado.

 

The working group recommended funding for wolf management come from sources other than hunting license sales.

 

Initiative will cost Colorado taxpayers million upon millions of dollars

The Colorado Legislative Council Staff’s Initial Fiscal Impact Statement breaks down costs for FY (Fiscal Year) 2021-22 & FY 2022-23. An open records request reveals an estimated breakdown of funding for the first eight years of initiative:

FY 2021-22                $344,363 (see Fiscal Impact Statement)

FY 2022-23               $467,387 (see Fiscal Impact Statement)

FY2023-24                $818,427

FY 2024-25               $788,427

FY 2025-26               $830,027

FY 2026-27                $846,927

FY 2027-28                $821,427

FY 2028-29               $782,927

Total                           $5,719,812 Million

Past history and current events from other states show costs only escalate once wolves are on the ground, multiply & disperse, and are involved with increasing depredation incidents.

 

This is an unfunded mandate with proponents offering ZERO support to pay for introduction, wolf depredation, deterrent measures, research or other financial burdens

  • Proponents began to publicly raise funds for a ballot initiative to forcibly introduce wolves into Colorado in 2017. Despite raising $1,351,242.24 by January 1, 2020, advocates allocated zero dollars in funding toward actual on-the-ground forced introduction efforts. Instead they call for “appropriations as are necessary to fund programs” but offer no assistance. Nor do they offer financial assistance for:
    • Costs of pre-planning entire operation
    • Costs of federal staff to oversee effort
    • Costs of aircraft to find wolves
    • Costs of trapping wolves
    • Costs of holding, overseeing wolves for quarantine period, disease testing, etc.
    • Costs of monitoring wolves once they’re on the ground
    • Costs of wolf-related research
    • No mechanism in place to pay for livestock/pet depredation
    • Costs of hiring new CPW personnel to oversee wolf management
    • Costs of non-lethal deterrent efforts
    • Costs of lethal wolf removal by CPW or in-state hired services
    • Costs of lethal wolf removal efforts by Wildlife Services
  • CPW already faces a $41 million funding shortfall by 2025 ($30 million of which is dedicated to wildlife management): https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/About/Reports/StatewideFactSheet.pdf
  • Due to COVID-19 impacts, experts estimate Colorado’s state budget could be cut as much as $3 billion or roughly 10 percent for fiscal year 2020-2021. Yet activists continue to push forced wolf introduction which is projected cost the state $6 million in new spending.
  • Also, see previously mentioned annual costs from the previous point above the Colorado taxpayer burden.
  • Additionally, past history from the forced introduction of wolves into the Northern Rockies shows supporters of this initiative (Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds, Sierra Club, etc.) will file multiple lawsuits to halt any management activities whatsoever once wolves are placed on the ground. That litigation costs taxpayers millions of dollars when agencies have to defend themselves in court and these organizations sue for reimbursement of their attorney fees.

 

Forced wolf introduction is driven by out-of-state interests

Financial disclosure reports show that as of January 1, 2020, proponents fundraised $1,351,242.24. Of that amount, $1,091,920.50 or 80.81 percent is from out-of-state. The top ten contributors are below:

  • Tides Center-San Francisco, CA-$333,649.73
  • Defenders of Wildlife-Washington DC-$260,600
  • Timothy Ferriss-Austin, TX-$122,500
  • Assn of Zoos & Aquariums-Maryland-$100,000
  • Center for Biological Diversity-Tucson, AZ-$35,000
  • Colorado Sierra Club-Denver, CO-$30,325.18
  • Jodi Richard-New York, NY-$16,043.98
  • Trammell Crow-Dallas, TX-$6,000
  • Liberty Godshall-Los Angeles, CA-$5,400
  • Mike Phillips-Bozeman, MT-$3,776

Major expenditures as of 1/1/2020: $1,320,033.10:

  • Signature gathering: $1,047,630.000
  • Campaign, web & digital consulting: $144,728.13
  • Fundraising consulting: $41,016.63
  • Legal and compliance: $39,151.85
  • Creative and printing: $23,379.97
  • Of the proponents’ 28-member Science Advisory Board, 15 of are from outside of Colorado. Specifically, from Arizona, Alabama, California, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan (2), Minnesota, Montana (3), New Jersey, Wisconsin and Yellowstone National Park (2).
  • Proponents hired and utilized Landslide Political, a Salt Lake City-based firm to carry out signature-gathering efforts.
  • Mike Phillips conducted many interviews with the media in Colorado prior to the initiative being placed on the ballot. He is a Montana senator from Bozeman that represents District 31. He also is the director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund.

 

Wolf populations will spread far beyond proposed introduction area including statewide & beyond

  • Wolves will spread throughout the state of Colorado where elk live as well as into Utah, Arizona and New Mexico and other states.
  • History shows a population spread to be inevitable. After the initial release of 34 wolves into central Idaho in 1995-96, wolves spread throughout Idaho and across state lines into Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. The initial release of 31 wolves into Yellowstone also led to the spread of wolves into Wyoming and other locations. At last count minimum estimated populations number 1,000 wolves in Idaho, 900 in Montana, 158 in Oregon, 145 in Washington and seven to 10 in California.
  • Recent wolf packs confirmed in western Washington, western Oregon and in California are 600 miles from the original central Idaho release point.
  • A Colorado forced introduction could also threaten the existence of Mexican wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, federal and state agencies spent more than $44 million toward recovery and introduction of the Mexican wolf in those two states. Scientists there fear a Colorado gray wolf introduction “threatens the genetic integrity and recovery of the subspecies.” Translation: the genetic extinction of the Mexican wolf is a very real possibility.

 

Forced wolf introduction will negatively impact Colorado’s ungulate populations

  • CPW introduced moose into the state beginning in 1978. Subsequent releases led to a current estimated population of 3,000. History and current activity shows wolves have significant detrimental impacts on moose. According to renowned wolf researcher David Mech, an increasing wolf population in Minnesota led to a drastic decrease in moose numbers. Since 2006, the moose population in northeast Minnesota dropped 65 percent to an estimated 4,350 animals.
  • Ongoing research in southwest Colorado aims to determine why elk numbers are ailing. Approximately half of the calves born today are not surviving even six months. RMEF provided funding for the study.
  • Data provided in the 2019 CPW big game regulation book shows of the 17 statewide elk units that are under objective, 13 of those are in western or southwestern Colorado. And of the 47 statewide deer units that are under objective, 41 of those are west of the Continental Divide. A forced introduction of wolves on the West Slope followed by an expanding wolf population will result in definite impacts on ungulate populations.

 

Wolves will negatively impact farming & ranching families including livestock & pets

A ballot initiative to forcibly introduce wolves onto the Colorado landscape flies in the face of science.

There are very real costs and negative impacts for individual ranching families associated with wolves and wolf-livestock interactions including predation; increased expenses for monitoring cattle, deterrence, more food to make up for poor diet, additional veterinary costs due to injuries and threats to working animals like dogs & horses; fewer animals due to unaccounted individuals after wolf attacks, increased stress including PTSD-like symptoms and poor behavior, lower pregnancy rates and miscarriages; smaller cattle due to weight loss; diseases spread by wolves; and an emotional toll due to financial burden/stress and concern for well-being of livestock and other animals.

  • In 2019 alone, the Montana Livestock Loss Board doled out more than $247,000 for livestock depredation. Livestock owners filed claims for 360 animals killed by wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions. Go here to view Montana livestock losses dating back to 2008.
  • Costs continue to escalate. On March 20, 2020, the Idaho State Legislature approved sending $400K to a state board to kill problem wolves in Idaho.
  • As an example of the wide-ranging impacts on one Montana ranching family, watch this 2010 media report from CBS affiliate KPAX-TV in Missoula, Montana.

 

Research shows wolves do not slow or stop the spread of chronic wasting disease despite non-stop claims by proponents & wolf researcher David Mech stated such claims are merely speculation.

  • No scientific studies exist showing wolves slow or stop the spread of CWD & wolf researcher David Mech stated such claims are merely speculation.
  • Right now, there are also approximately 30 wolf packs within 50 miles of the northwest Montana town of Libby where CWD was first detected in early 2019. By July 2019, there were five confirmed samples. By January 2020, there were 64 CWD-positive samples, thus the disease continues to spread despite the presence of wolves.
  • Colorado State University’s Prion Research Center scientists found CWD prions remain infectious and are actually distributed by canids (coyotes in this specific research) after they ingest infected ungulates, defecate or leave their saliva behind as they move across the landscape. Their research shows it takes at least three days for CWD-infected brain material to pass entirely through the gastrointestinal tract of coyotes, who are known to cover 50 miles or more per day. Wolves are the largest member of the canid family so they may spread it too.
  • On a similar front, proponents claim trophic cascade theory formulated in the mid-2000s and espoused in Yellowstone automatically translates to Colorado’s landscapes. Renowned wolf researcher David Mech warned against “sanctifying the wolf.” In that research, he stated “any such cascading effects of wolves found in National Parks would have little relevance to most of the wolf range because of overriding anthropogenic (related to human activity) influences there on wolves, prey, vegetation, and other parts of the food web.” More recent, vigorous and peer-reviewed research conducted in the same location as the original study refutes the theory altogether. And citing trophic cascade theory that wolves reshaped the Yellowstone landscape, Arthur Middleton, assistant professor of wildlife management and policy at California Berkeley, simple said, “It’s not true.”
  • In addition, 2019 research questions whether introducing predators has any impact whatsoever on ecosystems.

 


COMMON QUESTIONS