MONTROSE–Montrose County Commissioners on April 7 passed a resolution stating the county’s opposition to the forced introduction of wolves and declaring the county to be a “Wolf Reintroduction Sanctuary County, allowing only for the natural migration and repopulation of Gray Wolves without the competition from artificially introduced wolves.”
The resolution comes in response to the passage of Proposition 114 in the 2020 general election, which mandates the forced introduction of wolves into western Colorado by December 31, 2022, and follows closely on the heels of a similar resolution passed by Rio Blanco County Commissioners in March.
Wolf importation passed with a narrow margin of just over 56,000 votes statewide, with the outcome heavily influenced by Front Range metropolitan voters. The resolution notes that voters in Montrose County came out against the measure roughly 76% to 24%. Overall, roughly 62% of Western Slope voters said no to the measure, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Front Range voter advantage.
The resolution says, “Wolf reintroduction in other states have included a provision for ‘fair compensation’ for livestock losses due to wolf predation, however, in practical application, this has proven difficult to unattainable for affected livestock producers.”
In 2013, for example, wolves chased a herd of about 2,400 sheep belonging to the Siddoway Sheep Co. in southestern Idaho and drove 176 of them off of a cliff to their deaths.
Cindy Siddoway, a principle in the company, told Complete Colorado that the company did not receive any compensation for the loss, which she estimated was about $30,000.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service 2020 Colorado Annual Bulletin (NASS) lists Montrose County as having 53,000 cattle and calves with an average individual value of $1,130 for a total value of over $59 million.
Proposition 114 requires “fair compensation” for livestock losses, but it also specifies that such compensation be paid only “if available,” out of the Wildlife Cash Fund.
Revenue for that fund comes primarily from hunting and fishing licenses, not from other forms of outdoor recreation like camping, hiking and skiing.
“That’s the money we [use to] manage everything, from greenback trout to Prebles meadow jumping mice to stocking trout, to the establishment of state wildlife areas and their management,” said Rick Enstrom, former Colorado State Wildlife Commissioner in a January 2020 interview with Complete Colorado. “Any time you do anything to a budget they just start taking it out of other budgets because there is no extra money.”
In addition to livestock, Montrose County’s economy relies heavily on hunting and fishing revenue and is home to large elk and mule deer herds.
Wolf reintroduction in Wyoming has decimated elk and deer herds leading to declines in hunting license revenues and hunter experience there, says Enstrom.
“You only have to look at what happened to the Wyoming elk population,” Enstrom said. “Their herds have been knocked back to 10 percent of what it was.”
The resolution says “Designated Lands” in the statute “must not include Montrose County or any other County in the State that adopts the Sanctuary County Designation.”
Montrose previously joined 38 other Colorado counties, a majority of the state’s 64 counties, in opposing forced wolf introduction in the run-up to the 2020 election.
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