Metro

  • Written by Rebecca Niemiec, Assistant Professor in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

Colorado voters will decide on Nov. 3 whether the state should reintroduce gray wolves (Canis lupus) after a nearly 80-year absence. Ballot Proposition 114[1] would require the state to develop and oversee a science-based plan to restore wolves, focused in Western Colorado and initiated by the end of 2023.

Restoring wolves is a contentious topic that taps into diverse values and passions. Indeed, much of the conflict surrounding wolves isn’t human versus animal, but human versus human.

Creating environments that allow humans and carnivores to thrive and that minimize social conflict is a global challenge. Examples include black bears[2] and grizzly bears[3] in North America, pumas[4] in North and South America, wolves[5] in Europe, lions[6] in Africa and tigers[7] in India.

As researchers who study the social[8] and ecological[9] dimensions of human-carnivore coexistence[10], we see the vote on Proposition 114 as a catalyst for broader discussions about carnivore conservation and management. In our view, the best way to find workable solutions is to include people representing all sides of the issue[11] in shared decision-making.

Will Colorado bring back wolves? It's up to voters Gray wolves once roamed much of North America, but hunting, trapping and poisoning in the 19th and 20th centuries greatly reduced their numbers. Living with Wolves, CC BY-ND[12][13]

Back by popular demand?

For thousands of years before white settlers pushed west, gray wolves ranged throughout the area that is now Colorado, from the Western Slope and Front Range of the Rocky Mountains into the Eastern Plains. As the region was settled, government agencies started paying bounties[14] for wolves and other predators that were seen as threats to livestock and game. By the 1940s, shooting, trapping and poisoning had systematically eradicated wolves from Colorado.

In recent decades a few lone wolves migrated to Colorado from adjacent states, but were killed or simply disappeared. Then, starting in 2019, a pack of up to six wolves and a separate lone wolf were sighted in northern Colorado. Recent media reports indicate that some of these wolves may have been shot and killed along the Wyoming-Colorado border[15].

Several scientific studies have concluded that Colorado can still support a self-sustaining, viable wolf population[16]. Wolves can live successfully in many types of habitats where there is enough prey and where humans will tolerate them.

There are conflicting views in Colorado on reintroducing wolves.

Today gray wolves are protected in Colorado as an endangered species[17]. However, they have no legal protection in most of Wyoming, where they can be killed on sight. This makes it challenging for wolves to migrate from the Yellowstone region, where they were reintroduced in the mid-1990s[18], through Wyoming into Colorado.

The only other adjoining states with resident wolf populations are Arizona and New Mexico, where the endangered subspecies of Mexican gray wolf was reintroduced starting in the 1990s. But federal policy requires[19] that wolves leaving the reintroduction zone be recaptured and returned to it. Ultimately, then, if Coloradans want to bring wolves back, having wildlife biologists reintroduce them is the most likely route.

Proposition 114 was placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative led by the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund[20]. It asserts that gray wolves are endangered in Colorado; were historically an essential part of Colorado’s wildlands, but were exterminated by humans; and will help restore ecological balance[21] if they are reintroduced.

Wolves are predators at the top of the food chain. Studies from national parks[22] suggest that wolves’ presence can produce ecological effects that ripple through ecosystems. But science also tells us that such impacts are difficult to predict outside of national parks, including in Colorado.

Will Colorado bring back wolves? It's up to voters A wolf chases magpies and ravens from an elk carcass in Yellowstone National Park. NPS/Jim Peaco, CC BY[23][24]

Clashing values

Proposition 114 has strong support in Colorado. Statewide surveys [25] conducted by phone, by mail and online over the past two decades have found that 66% to 84% of respondents supported reintroducing wolves. This support is consistent across different regions of the state and diverse demographic groups.

In a survey of Colorado residents[26] that we conducted in 2019, the prospect that wolves could contribute to a balanced ecosystem was the most commonly cited reason for supporting reintroduction. Other arguments included people’s cultural and emotional connections to wolves, and moral arguments[27] that restoring a species humans had eradicated was the right thing to do.

While overall public support is strong, over half of Colorado’s 64 counties have passed resolutions against restoring wolves[28]. Many ranching and hunting associations are actively campaigning against the ballot measure.

In our 2019 study, we found that media coverage in the state focused more strongly on perceived negative impacts[29] associated with wolf reintroduction than on beneficial effects. Surveys show that resident concerns include threats to human safety and pets[30]; wolf attacks on livestock[31]; and the potential for wolves to reduce deer and elk populations[32], threatening hunting opportunities.

Who decides?

This measure is the first giving voters in the U.S. an opportunity to weigh in on bringing back a native species. Addressing the issue through a ballot measure adds a unique twist to public and media discussions about wolves.

Supporters call it a democratic way to ensure that the public’s values are recognized[33]. They also argue that voters are deciding only whether wolves should be reintroduced, while allowing experts at the state wildlife agency[34] to create a reintroduction plan based on the best available science[35].

Opponents assert that wildlife management decisions should be left to state experts[36]. As some critics note, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission[37] has decided against wolf reintroduction four times[38], most recently in 2016. The commission is a citizen board appointed by the governor and made up of sportspersons, agricultural producers, recreationists and nonconsumptive wildlife organizations. Opponents also point out that people who do not support reintroducing wolves, such as ranchers, will bear a disproportionate share of the costs.

These arguments reflect deeper power dynamics that influence wildlife management across the U.S. Many wildlife agencies tend to represent people and organizations who believe wildlife should be managed for human benefit[39], particularly hunting and other consumptive uses.

These agencies receive much of their funding from hunting and fishing license fees[40]. And people who believe wildlife should be managed to benefit humans tend to support using lethal methods to control wolves and other carnivores. They also are more likely to oppose reintroducing them[41] where they have been eradicated.

However, support for this view is declining[42]. A growing share of Americans believe humans should coexist with carnivores and oppose managing them primarily for human benefit[43]. But because agency decisions don’t always reflect these increasingly popular values, people who advocate coexisting with nature are seeking a greater say via the ballot box.

[The Conversation’s science, health and technology editors pick their favorite stories. Weekly on Wednesdays[44].]

Finding consensus

Studies suggest that ballot initiatives like 114 will become more common[45] as public values toward wildlife change and more diverse groups seek to influence wildlife management. For us, the key question is how to recognize and incorporate these differing values as agencies make decisions.

Research drawing on insights from psychology, political science and sociology[46] suggests that it is critical to run truly participatory processes[47] that engage government agencies and people who have a stake in the issue in shared decision-making. Fostering dialogue between groups that value wildlife differently can build empathy and mutual understanding and foster compromise[48]. Broadening the conversation in this way is essential for coexisting with carnivores with minimal impacts on predators and people.

References

  1. ^ Ballot Proposition 114 (ballotpedia.org)
  2. ^ black bears (theconversation.com)
  3. ^ grizzly bears (www.cbc.ca)
  4. ^ pumas (www.latimes.com)
  5. ^ wolves (www.theguardian.com)
  6. ^ lions (doi.org)
  7. ^ tigers (www.theguardian.com)
  8. ^ social (scholar.google.com)
  9. ^ ecological (scholar.google.com)
  10. ^ human-carnivore coexistence (sites.warnercnr.colostate.edu)
  11. ^ representing all sides of the issue (drive.google.com)
  12. ^ Living with Wolves (www.livingwithwolves.org)
  13. ^ CC BY-ND (creativecommons.org)
  14. ^ paying bounties (mhs.mt.gov)
  15. ^ shot and killed along the Wyoming-Colorado border (www.cpr.org)
  16. ^ support a self-sustaining, viable wolf population (extension.colostate.edu)
  17. ^ protected in Colorado as an endangered species (extension.colostate.edu)
  18. ^ reintroduced in the mid-1990s (www.nps.gov)
  19. ^ federal policy requires (extension.colostate.edu)
  20. ^ the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (www.wolfactionfund.com)
  21. ^ help restore ecological balance (leg.colorado.gov)
  22. ^ national parks (extension.colostate.edu)
  23. ^ NPS/Jim Peaco (www.nps.gov)
  24. ^ CC BY (creativecommons.org)
  25. ^ Statewide surveys (extension.colostate.edu)
  26. ^ survey of Colorado residents (doi.org)
  27. ^ moral arguments (extension.colostate.edu)
  28. ^ resolutions against restoring wolves (www.drovers.com)
  29. ^ perceived negative impacts (doi.org)
  30. ^ human safety and pets (extension.colostate.edu)
  31. ^ wolf attacks on livestock (extension.colostate.edu)
  32. ^ reduce deer and elk populations (extension.colostate.edu)
  33. ^ public’s values are recognized (www.cpr.org)
  34. ^ state wildlife agency (cpw.state.co.us)
  35. ^ based on the best available science (www.steamboatpilot.com)
  36. ^ left to state experts (www.cpr.org)
  37. ^ Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (cpw.state.co.us)
  38. ^ against wolf reintroduction four times (cpw.state.co.us)
  39. ^ managed for human benefit (doi.org)
  40. ^ hunting and fishing license fees (theconversation.com)
  41. ^ more likely to oppose reintroducing them (www.sciencedirect.com)
  42. ^ support for this view is declining (theconversation.com)
  43. ^ oppose managing them primarily for human benefit (doi.org)
  44. ^ Weekly on Wednesdays (theconversation.com)
  45. ^ become more common (doi.org)
  46. ^ psychology, political science and sociology (extension.colostate.edu)
  47. ^ truly participatory processes (drive.google.com)
  48. ^ foster compromise (doi.org)

Authors: Rebecca Niemiec, Assistant Professor in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

Read more https://theconversation.com/will-colorado-bring-back-wolves-its-up-to-voters-147244

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

KAI ALECE “Raise ‘Em Up”

Sometimes, a song written by a brilliant, insightful songwriter who’s been flying – and singing - way too long under the radar, rises to meet the sociopolitical moment in unimaginably provocative ways. After hundreds of gigs throughout the Southe...

News Co - avatar News Co

How I tied an 80s Pop Icon to an Alien Abduction

I was playing guitar when I got a message that 80s rocker Tommy Tutone (Tommy Heath) wanted me to use the hook from his 1984 hit "867-5309/Jenny" in a new song.  You might know the song; it's the one with the phone number "867-5309".  It might be...

AV Super Sunshine - avatar AV Super Sunshine

An Unexpected Effect of COVID: Collaboration and Creativity

Who knew? The mentions in the news of the coronavirus hitting American shores were just beginning when my husband and I went ahead with our weekend getaway. It was late February, and we were headed to Chicago, a simple four-hour drive away from o...

Angela Predhomme - avatar Angela Predhomme

COVID-19: A MUSIC INDUSTRY KILLER

Fifty years from now—long after Covid-19 has run its course—what will historians say about how we handled this pandemic? Will they praise us for a job well done? Or will they marvel, instead, at the viral panic that led to such irrational, cont...

David P Hatherill, PhD (aka Dr Dave Smooth Jazz Recording Artist) and John Sack, MD - avatar David P Hatherill, PhD (aka Dr Dave Smooth Jazz Recording Artist) and John Sack, MD

NEW MUSIC AND VIDEO: AV SUPER SUNSHINE “X File: 8675309”

One of the most iconic phone numbers in rock history, 867-5309 began life scrawled under the name “Jenny” on a bathroom wall in 1982 – the year the band Tommy Tutone took the single to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nearly four decades later, thank...

News Co - avatar News Co

COVID-19'S EFFECT ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the music industry in ways that could ultimately turn it on its head not only during the pandemic but, perhaps, permanently. Since its inception, the business model of the music industry has remained largely un...

Brandyn Cross - avatar Brandyn Cross

Metropolitan Business News

How to Deliver the Perfect Elevator Pitch

Do you struggle with explaining your career with professional or personal contacts, and you want to make a lasting impression? Whether you're looking for a job or building up your network, a wel...

Adam Jacobs - avatar Adam Jacobs

Three Asian Countries That are Leaders in Outsourcing

Would it surprise you to know that three of the top five ranked countries for ease of doing business are in Asia? Would it surprise you more to know that India and China aren’t even in the top 3...

Adam Jacobs - avatar Adam Jacobs

FCB and oOh! help Kiwis vote with dynamic campaign for Electoral Commission

oOh!media and FCB NZ are helping Kiwi voters exercise their democratic rights this general election, via a localised dynamic Out of Home campaign for the New Zealand Electoral Commission. The c...

Lighthouse Communications. - avatar Lighthouse Communications.

MODEL/ACTOR THORN CASTILLO IS THE “NEW FACE” OF SCHICK STYLIST

In 2019, just as his multi-faceted career was taking off, Thorn Castillo heard Robert Downey Jr. offer a sage bit of advice during an interview on photographer/director Sam Jones’ acclaimed multi-...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Research Highlights Opportunities for Sports Betting

Revenue Stream for Sports’ Post-COVID-19 Recovery Strategies New Rochelle, NY, June 1, 2020— Twenty-four states have now legalized sports betting, with more states considering legalization la...

Len Stein - avatar Len Stein

How to make overseas transfers easier?

Mainstream banks can charge as much as $20 just to process a basic international money transfer. Fortunately, today people are not doomed to handling personal finances only through mainstream gl...

News Company - avatar News Company

Writers Wanted


News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion