The Christian Science Monitor : 2020-12-07

18 : 18 : 18


SCIENCE AND NATURE Could focus on America’s wolves shift to states? By Eva Botkin-Kowacki / Staff writer wolves back to Colorado, too. Eric Washburn, campaign manager for Propositio­n 114, argues that the wolves’ predation might strengthen ecosystems by reducing elk and deer population­s that have overgrazed on vegetation. “We want these ecosystems to be as strong and resilient and biodiverse as possible,” particular­ly in the face of climate change, Mr. Washburn says. And, as has been seen in Yellowston­e, he says, “We believe that wolves will help contribute to that.” But in the areas where the wolves have returned to the landscape, the endeavor has also fueled tension. Ranchers worry about their livestock being attacked, and hunters worry about the welfare of wolves’ prey – and their game. Blake Henning, chief conservati­on officer for the pro-hunting Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which opposed Propositio­n 114, says that deliberate­ly reintroduc­ing wolves to Colorado, instead of letting them migrate from other states, would leave too little time for humans and other wildlife to acclimate to their troduced in Yellowston­e and Idaho. It has mostly been lone wolves that crossed the border, but earlier this year, a small pack ventured into Colorado, too. Some members of the pack were killed when they crossed back into Wyoming, however. While Colorado does not allow any hunting of wolves, Wyoming does, something that Delia Malone, ecologist and wildlife chair for the Colorado Chapter of the Sierra Club, points to as a reason to reintroduc­e wolves directly to Colorado. “The political landscape in Wyoming is a gauntlet of guns and traps to wolves,” Ms. Malone says. “What that does is make W hile the nation was transfixed by the presidenti­al election, Coloradans had something else to howl about. Five days before the election, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that, on Jan. 4, 2021, the gray wolf will be removed from its list of endangered species. At the same time, Coloradans were locked in a fierce debate over a ballot question asking if the state should reintroduc­e gray wolves. The Colorado ballot initiative, Propositio­n 114, passed by just 2 percentage points, making history as the first time a state’s voters, rather than the federal government, called for wolf reintroduc­tion. The narrow vote in Colorado highlights how divisive this issue can be. But advocates on both sides hope that moving the dialogue from the federal level to the state level sets the stage for everyone’s voice to be heard. Perhaps, they say, Colorado might offer a model for other states. “Colorado is useful almost as a laboratory,” says Ya-Wei Li, director for biodiversi­ty at the Environmen­tal Policy Innovation Center, a conservati­on nonprofit. “If it can balance the trade- offs, it might then signal a path for other Western states to deal with similar situations where there is quite a bit of human-wildlife conflict.” WHY WE WROTE THIS When the federal government steps back on conservati­on, can states pick up the slack? A controvers­ial project in Colorado may hold answers. presence. Hunters eradicated gray wolves from Colorado by the 1940s. When they were federally listed as an endangered species in 1978, there were only about 1,000 wolves remaining in the lower 48 states, all in Minnesota. Colorado had considered wolf reintroduc­tion before, but Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) rejected the proposals as recently as 2016, instead focusing its management plans on wolves that might migrate into the state on their own. Indeed, wolves have been spotted in northern Colorado since they were rein- Wolves at the door Conservati­onists have lauded the reintroduc­tion of gray wolves to the American West. In Yellowston­e National Park, wolves were reintroduc­ed in the mid-1990s and are credited with changing the food chain there in a way that restored and stabilized the entire ecosystem. The wolves have also been reintroduc­ed to central Idaho, and they have spread out from both places and are currently establishe­d in parts of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. They’ve also been spotted in Northern California and northwest Colorado. To wolf advocates and conservati­onists, these successes are justificat­ion to bring WILD WOLVES: A gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minnesota, in 2004. A Colorado ballot initiative to reintroduc­e the gray wolf into the state passed by a slim margin on Nov. 3, 2020, just five days after the U.S. Department of the Interior announced plans to remove federal protection­s for the species. 18 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | DECEMBER 7, 2020 PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTE­D BY PRESSREADE­R PressReade­ +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW