Voters in Colorado have approved Proposition 114, forcing the state government to reintroduce the gray wolf. It’s the first time in U.S. history that a ballot measure win has obliged a state government to bring back a species that disappeared due to human actions.
With more than 90% of the vote counted, opponents of Proposition 114 have admitted defeat, reports the Denver Post. With the referendum won, state wildlife officials in Colorado will be required to develop an evidence-based recovery plan for wolves, which haven’t called the state home for decades. The proposition stipulates that grey wolves be restored to the mountainous portions of the state west of the continental divide by the end of 2023, with input from the public.
The passing of this ballot measure marks an important milestone, as it’s the first time that voters in a U.S. state have forced a state wildlife agency to restore a species through a referendum. That’s not a small thing, and it reflects a growing push to restore the balance of nature.
But it was close. Proposition 114 squeaked by with the support of 50.4% of those who voted for so-called “paws on the ground.” Denver and Boulder currently account for the 9% of votes that still need to be counted, but those regions are expected to favor the bill.
The gray wolf has recovered in the lower 48 states and no longer needs protections of the federal Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared Thursday.Therefore, the agency will delist the wolf and return management authority to the states.
“The gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery,” said David Bernhardt, Secretary of the Interior. “Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.” The decision, scheduled to take effect in early January, clears the way for the use of lethal control measures, including controversial wolf hunting and trapping seasons.
It’s the latest move in a decades-long legal and cultural seesaw over best management practices for the native large carnivore that plays a keystone role in ecosystems and is revered in American Indian traditions but also causes conflicts with farmers and kills livestock.
A trail camera captures an image of a wolf in Wisconsin. Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Wisconsin’s gray wolf population continues to climb. A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources survey found the state’s wolf population grew 15% over the previous year. The overwinter wolf count rose from an estimated 914 to 978 wolves in the 2018-2019 count to an estimated 1,034 to 1,057 wolves in the 2019-2020 count. The number of packs rose from 243 to 256. The population has steadily climbed from a low of 14 wolves (Canis lupus) in 1985. Along with their growing numbers have come growing complaints. During the latest survey period, the agency tallied 90 wolf complaints, up from fewer than 70 the previous year.
House passes America’s Conservation Enhancement Act
By Laura Bies, The Wildlife Society
Posted on October 8, 2020
The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, passed by Congress last week, increases the authorization level to $60 million annually for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS
FILE – This June 29, 2017, file remote camera image provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a female gray wolf and two of the three pups born in 2017 in the wilds of Lassen National Forest in Northern California. (U.S. Forest Service via AP, File)
Aug. 31, 2020. By John Flesher and Matthew Brown | AP
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The Trump administration plans to lift endangered species protections for gray wolves across most of the nation by the end of the year, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday. “We’re working hard to have this done by the end of the year and I’d say it’s very imminent,” Aurelia Skipwith told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. The administration also is pushing ahead with a rollback of protections for migratory birds despite a recent setback in federal court, she said.