Voters statewide said yes to gray wolves being reintroduced here on the Western Slope, but a local rancher and a lawmaker say the burden of wolves shouldn’t impact the ones that voted no.
You might be hearing the howl of a wolf in person in the near future because the voters said yes statewide to releasing wolves in Western Colorado. State Representative Matt Soper serving District 54 says, “It would have a horrible impact on the cattle industry, and the hunting industry. Lastly, the outdoor recreation economy. Do you really want to be wild land camping when there’s a pack of wolves running through?”
One local ranch owner shares the sentiment. Van Winkle Ranch owner, Janie Van Winkle says, “Every one of these cows that you see standing out in the field. Every single one of them contributes $600 to $800 to our local economy.”
Livestock ranching is one of the main economic drivers in Northwest Colorado, and State Representative Soper says protected wolves will kill cattle and the Western Colorado economy. Soper brought a bill to the table that would bring wolves only to counties that voted yes, reduce the amount of wolves to save endangered prey, and if millions of sportsman’s dollars went to building up herds of prey animals, wolves wouldn’t be released there, but the bill is dead. So, it’s time for plan B, bill HB21-1040 that is, and make the state pay. “What it says is that sportsman’s dollars will not be used for the wolf reintroduction. Those dollars will have to come from elsewhere,” said Soper.
According to the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Proposition 114 was not passed by any member counties, and their livelihood is prey to wolves. But according to Van Winkle the wolves aren’t the problem right now, but the drought sure is. “It’s hard on the livestock, it’s hard on the ranchers, it’s hard on all the wildlife, and we’re out in that environment all the time. So, the drought is probably forefront in our mind,” said Van Winkle.
The wolves have yet to come, but the drought and the wolf debate are here to stay for a while. “The entire state voted to only put wolves west of the continental divide. So, this is truly a discriminatory bill against the Western Slope,” said Soper.