DENVER — Colorado voters could soon be tasked with deciding whether to bring gray wolves back to the state.
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund is currently gathering signatures on a petition to bring the question before voters. If they can gather 125,000 signatures by Dec. 13, voters will see the measure on their ballots in 2020.
As of Wednesday, the group had gathered roughly 10,000 signatures.
“This would begin to restore some of the way Colorado was,” said Rick Ridder. “It will create some of the wilderness we all knew, and that we all come to Colorado for.”
The last confirmed wolf sighting in Colorado was in 2015, when a wolf was killed near Kremmling.
The recent sighting of a gray wolf in northern Colorado has only fueled the debate over the future of the animal that once roamed Colorado freely.
Groups looking to stop the measure say the bulk of the state’s voters are along the Front Range and would never feel the impact of the reintroduction.
“You’re saying on the Front Range that it’s OK for us to have to live with the consequences of wolves, when you don’t have to put up with them over on the Front Range,” said Denny Behrens. “I don’t think that’s right, and most of us over here don’t think it’s fair at all.”
Behrens is in charge of the Colorado Stop The Wolf Coalition, and says farmers and ranchers on the Western Slope are gravely concerned about the impact wolves would have on their livelihoods.
“There’s just no room for wolf here,” he said. “It’s conflict and chaos from day one. Why would you want to do that?”
The measure does include language that would provide compensation to farmers or ranchers for wolf damage, similar to the way the state pays ranchers who have livestock killed by bears.
The number of wolves would also be controlled by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“We are putting this in the hands of the wildlife biologists,” said Ridder.
Ultimately, it could be up to voters to decide.