Colorado voters order wolf reintroduction

Canis lupus – image courtesy Wikimedia

Voters in Colorado have enacted by initiative a statute that requires gray wolves to be re-introduced to the state by 2023. According to results available at the website of secretary of state Jena Griswold, Proposition 114 passed with 50.64% of the vote.

Wolves will be reintroduced only to the Western Slope. The initiative includes a mandate to compensate ranchers who lose livestock to Canis lupus predation. In addition, the voter-enacted law requires the state parks and wildlife commission to use “the best scientific data available” to develop the reintroduction plan, hold hearings around the state to gather information to be considered in making the plan, and help ranchers to prevent wolf-livestock interactions.

The particular areas on the Western Slope that will again be populated by Canis lupus is left to the commission to determine. Prior to 1940 the animal ranged not only west of the Rockies, but across the state. In more recent years there have been wolf sightings in western Colorado, including a wolf pack.

Despite being added to the U.S. list of endangered and threatened species in 1974, and although gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in January 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service never moved to return the species to Colorado.

The Trump regime eliminated Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf on Oct. 29, 2020.

The state parks and wildlife commission rejected a 2016 proposal to reintroduce wolves. Colorado has, however, re-introduced several other species: turkeys during the 1980s, lynx in 1999, and bison in 2015, for example.

House passes bill to protect more than one million acres of wilderness

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would add more than a million acres of land to the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Protecting America’s Wilderness Act would extend preservation to public land in California, Colorado, and Washington.

The bill would designate more wilderness than any other bill passed by the House in more than a decade. “We have been working on this legislation for more than 20 years,” Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and the bill’s sponsor, said. “The areas that will be protected under this bill are some of the most beautiful and pristine landscapes that our country has to offer.”

Among the public lands that would be added to the nation’s inventory of designated wilderness are:

  • 660,000 acres in 36 areas across Colorado, including  the Handies Peak, Dolores River Canyon, Little Book Cliffs, Diamond Breaks, Papoose Canyon, North Ponderosa Gorge, and South Ponderosa Gorge areas;
  • 312,500 acres in Northwest California, by means of expanding nine existing wilderness areas and creating eight new ones;
  • 30,700 acres of newly-designated wilderness in Southern California; and
  • 126,544 acres of newly-designated wilderness on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

H.R. 2546 would also add nearly 1,300 river miles in the three states to the National Wild and Scenic River System.

The bill was approved on a 231-183 vote. It is not expected to receive consideration in the Republican-controlled Senate this year.

COMMENTARY: New Colo. Sen. Gardner’s votes on climate change amendments are proof of unwillingness to lead

Cory Gardner, Colorado’s brand-new Republican U.S. senator, has had a charmed career. The “cherubic” legislator from the Centennial state’s eastern plains rose in about nine years from obscurity to one of the state’s most powerful politicians.

He got there because he’s likable, because he had the good fortune of running against an incumbent U.S. senator who ran a less-than-stellar re-election campaign, and because he promised Coloradans that he would be a different sort of Republican – one more attuned to the changing priorities of a politically moderate Western state than are many of his GOP colleagues in Washington and elsewhere.

This week, as the Senate debated a bill to green-light the controversial KXL oil pipeline, Gardner had the chance to prove that his words were sincere. He failed to do that and, in the process, reinforced fears that he will give more priority to the desires of fossil fuel interests than to the imperative of a cogent national response to anthropogenic climate change.

Gardner had four chances to acknowledge, with his vote and, maybe, with his voice, that humans are causing Earth’s climate to change. When he had the opportunity to vote for amendments to S.1, the KXL pipeline bill, offered by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Brian Schatz, D-Haw., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that forthrightly recognized that indisputable fact, Gardner blew it. In each case he voted “no.”

To be fair, few of his GOP colleagues voted any differently and, during his campaign last year, Gardner never took a clear stand on climate change. Nevertheless, the senator represents a state that stands to be severely impacted by climate change, with a serious potential of lower winter snow pack, earlier snow melt that reduces summer flows in the state’s rivers and streams and the volume of water in its reservoirs, and increasing drought on the senator’s native Great Plains. Colorado is a state that depends heavily on tourism, as people from all over the world travel to its mountains to ski, snowboard, and otherwise revel in the wintry white, and its burgeoning high technology sector draws talented employees who value the state’s equable climate and four-season playground far more than they do the parochial desires of oil company executives for increased profits at the expense of a warmed planet.

Environmental policy is central to Colorado’s economy, quality of life, and culture. Gardner’s votes this week indicate a surprising willingness to overlook that reality. It is difficult to believe that Gardner is not familiar with the clear scientific consensus that climate change currently causing rapid and dramatic change all over the planet is anthropogenic in origin. It is likewise difficult to believe that Gardner does not know that the widespread and ever-growing combustion of fossil fuels accounts for the heating of  our atmosphere and oceans.

The senator’s votes this week are a sad reminder that even those politicians who cannot count on a consistent trend of support for one party or the other are willing to disregard their constituents’ justifiable and genuine concern for the future of their state, the nation and civilization itself. They also tell every Coloradan that Cory Gardner is not a leader. He has not shown a willingness to be honest about humanity’s impact on the air we breathe and the oceans upon which we depend and, apparently, is comfortable with policies that will only add to the harm caused by our society’s intentional and destructive chemical experiment in the atmosphere.