Marj Perry: Wolf initiative should be pulled from ballot while scientific studies done
Recent letters by Eric Washburn and James Pribyl suggest science should be the basis for wolf reintroduction. The problem is that Yellowstone provides the only data.
To compare Colorado to Yellowstone is like thinking you need an appendectomy because your aunt needed one. Colorado is nothing like Yellowstone nor is Colorado anything like it was 150 years ago. Colorado is fragmented by housing developments, highways, fences and active use of trails. And the pressure is increasing.
Yellowstone is 90% evergreen forest. Even primal Yellowstone comprised only 4% to 6% aspen, unlike Colorado with aspen cover on 20% of forested land. In addition to aspen, western Colorado has countless acres of oak, serviceberry and chokecherry all providing excellent habitat. Elk in Colorado are not confined to riparian areas like Yellowstone.
The ballot initiative should be pulled while scientific studies are undertaken: identify riparian areas damaged by elk (if they exist), study why mule deer have declined over the decades and learn why elk are declining in western Colorado except in the Northwest corner.
What is the consequence of adding another predator to the balance? Will wolves even thrive with Colorado’s almost 6 million people compared to ½ million in Wyoming and 1.5 million in Montana? Yes, people reside primarily on the eastern slope, but recreation has become a serious industry in Colorado with hoards descending every weekend for biking, hiking and motorized recreation.
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Private ranches provide critical habitat for deer and elk, song birds, raptors that hunt open fields, many small mammals and predators like coyotes, bear and mountain lions. Ranches provide valued open space and quality of life to local communities and tourists. Wolves could have the unintended consequence of ranchers selling out, replaced by sprawling housing developments. Wolves may win at the ballot box, but Colorado will lose ranches and the rich vitality they provide.
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