GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Gray wolves stood on the top of nature’s food chain in Colorado over eight decades ago but were eradicated from most of the western United States by the 1930s. Now after 80 years, the reintroduction of gray wolves will be on the ballot for Colorado. Voting yes to Proposition 114 means getting the first wolf paws on Colorado ground by 2023.

“The conservation consequences of restoring wolves to Colorado can’t be overstated,” says Rob Edward, the President of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund. But opponents of the measure say wolves could threaten Colorado’s wildlife and livestock.

“We spent a lot of time and money to introduce moose on to Grand Mesa. We have elk, we have deer, we have antelope, and the wolves are certainly going to impact them,” says Janie VanWinkle, the President of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. She also says the initiative financially prioritizes the wrong issue during a global pandemic, when the economy is already struggling. “Because of the pandemic, our state budget is in a world of hurt. We have an approximately three billion-dollar shortfall,” says VanWinkle.

Proponents of the measure say wolves would help manage the overpopulation of deer and elk. Deer and elk that eat away vegetation that reduces erosion in streams and rivers. Erosion that hurts songbird and beaver habitats.

“The more beaver we have in our western forest systems, the more resilient those streamside areas will be to the inevitable fire regimes that happen as part of climate change,” says Edward. He also says the bulk of the cost of the measure, which would be about $340,000 the first year, wouldn’t fall on taxpayers, and that 75 percent of the cost would come from grants. “As far as we can see how the budget would work out, it wouldn’t be coming out of the general fund, so it wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything,” says Edward.

People on both sides of the issue believe it’ll leave a lasting impact on Colorado. Whether the impacts will be negative or positive, is where they disagree. “Should we be spending millions of dollars to introduce wolves into Colorado?” VanWinkle asks, “Or would we rather spend it on infrastructure like highways, or education?”

“We’re urging people to vote on proposition 114 in order to take politicians out of the equation and get on with implementing good science and getting wolves on the ground for future generations,” says Edward.