Local ranchers voice opposition at wolf reintroduction presentation

Published on Aspen Daily News Online (http://www.aspendailynews.com)
Local ranchers voice opposition at wolf reintroduction presentation
Collin Szewczyk

More than 100 attend Naturalist Nights at Carbondale’s Third Street Center

Area ranchers came out in numbers to adamantly oppose the idea of wolf reintroduction in Colorado during a standing-room-only presentation on the subject Wednesday evening in Carbondale.

Citing concerns to their finances, safety and livelihood, many in the crowd balked at the message provided by ecologist Delia Malone during a Naturalist Nights presentation entitled, “Should Gray Wolves be Restored to Colorado?” at the Third Street Center.

Malone, wildlife team chairperson at the Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter, spoke to a crowd of more than 100 about the history of wolves in Colorado, the successful reintroduction of the species to Yellowstone National Park, and methods ranchers could employ to keep their livestock off the menu should the apex predators be returned to the state.

“I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet that’s quite as smart as thousands of years of evolution in deciding who and what is important and who and what is not important,” Malone said. “Wolves are an important part of the ecosystem. They evolved with prey species, and prey species evolved with wolves, and when we remove an important part of the ecosystem, that has been there for tens of thousands of years, we can expect, and have seen and witnessed, dramatic and negative ecological impacts.”

Quotes from University of Wisconsin scientist, author, and conservationist Aldo Leopold were intertwined into the narrative. While with the U.S. Forest Service, Leopold was sent to New Mexico to hunt and kill mountain lions, bears and wolves, but found that ecosystems were healthier with these keystone predators playing their roles.

Perfect storm leads to conflict

Malone noted that wolves are crucial to a healthy biodiversity in Colorado’s wildlands, adding that the ecosystem was first altered by market hunting during the Gold Rush in the late 1850s that all but eliminated elk from the state.

They were later reintroduced in the 1920s, but this initial lack of game drove Colorado’s wolves to pursue another meal: livestock.

“At that same time ranchers also brought in cattle, and that set up a perfect storm,” Malone said. “These are predators that have lived for tens of thousands of years dependent on prey species. … But in the blink of an eye, their prey was gone, and all of the sudden to replace them were sheep. So what did they do? They turned to cattle and sheep.”…


6 thoughts on “Local ranchers voice opposition at wolf reintroduction presentation

  1. What we’ve done to the West is unnatural. The sheer arrogance of wanting to change the landscape to suit ourselves just leaves me shaking my head. And we haven’t changed in over two centuries. Doesn’t look good for the future of wildlife. I don’t eat beef and haven’t for decades, and I have never felt better nor more thankful about not contributing to this unnatural mess.

  2. Ecosystems evolve whether thru man made or natural causes; that’s the way it is. The dinosaurs died off for a reason whatever it was and the environment could not sustain them. Same thing with the wolves. Why reintroduce them back into the mess we have made of wildlife? Makes me laugh when I hear “wildlife management.” Reintroducing wolves creates a bad cycle of wolves predating on livestock, wolves being killed for the crime, wolves suffering. So the reintroduction would not be in the best interest of the wolves, just in case we are kidding ourselves that we are giving them an opportunity to live in a natural environment. Wildlife management would be better left to a Higher Power as men have been shortsighted and interfering and unable to acknowledge it.

    • Hunting wolves is a bigger threat to them. If we would eliminate the aggressive hunting policies, the wolves would do just fine. There are remedies in place for livestock loss, which is very minimal. What I was referring to was wiping the landscape clean of any threats to human activities – which isn’t a natural occurrence, or even realistic.

      We can only speculate what happened to the dinosaurs; but with wolves, it was due to irrational scapegoating of them by European settlers bringing their peculiar, idiosyncratic beliefs, for no good reason. The poor Native people! It was hardly a natural evolving. But, like most evil, it did not succeed, and good prevailed – wolves managed to hang on, and more enlightened individuals gave them a little help eventually. But they most likely would have expanded their ranges naturally too.

  3. F*ck welfare ranchers. Their non-native livestock cause more damage and destruction than any wolf or any other native wild species ever could or ever will. I’m sick and tired of my tax dollars subsidizing the destruction of native wildlife and wild habitat on our public lands. Non-native livestock should never take precedent over any native wild species. Ever.

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