Friday September 24, 2021

Glimmers of hope

August 03, 2021

Colorado, like most western states, was once a haven for an incredible array of wildlife including native carnivores like wolves, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, and wolverines. The government-sanctioned and funded war on wildlife over the last two centuries rendered many of these species either extinct in the Centennial State or barely hanging on. But, the past year has provided a glimmer of hope that times are changing as Colorado voters and decision-makers have begun to create a (hopefully) more hospitable place for wildlife.

The biggest sign of change – and a real reason for wildlife enthusiasts to be excited – is of course the passing of Proposition 114 in November of 2020. The ballot measure directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to bring the gray wolf back to Colorado, where it has been largely absent since the 1940s. How and where exactly reintroduction will happen is still up for much input and debate. And we can be sure that anti-wildlife interests will be fervent in advocating that wolves be hunted, trapped, lethally ‘managed’, and otherwise persecuted. Guardians will be there howling for wolves to be safe, protected, and bountiful enough to work their ecosystem magic across the state.

Another win for wildlife in Colorado that may have flown under the public radar, but that is critical for conservation: Governor Polis recently signed three bills into law to provide much-needed funding for CPW to protect the state’s diverse wildlife, habitat and park system. What’s particularly noteworthy about these new laws is that they will allow the general public to provide funding for wildlife conservation, not just hunters and anglers, who have historically paid for and directed state wildlife agencies.

The Keep Colorado Wild Pass Initiative, Wolf Reintroduction Funding With No License Fees, and Colorado State Parks and Public Lands Colorado Comeback Stimulus will all put public money into wildlife conservation efforts. These three pieces of legislation don’t wholly breakup the unholy grip that sportsmen have on CPW. But they are a start toward a wildlife agency that should be more accountable to the public – most of whom believe in the intrinsic value of wildlife and coexistence with wildlife – rather than a small subset of Coloradans.

Finally, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission appears to be getting more diverse both in terms of demographic representation and backgrounds and ideologies. Most wildlife and game commissions in the western US are dominated by males, white people, hunters, and agricultural representatives. This dynamic is a symptom of broader history and, of course, funding.

Excerpted: ‘Glimmers of Hope for Wildlife in Colorado’