Many Coloradans will recall November 2020 when just over half of voters approved the reintroduction of gray wolves west of the Continental Divide.
While many who voted in favor of this topic had good intentions – like wanting to protect and care for our state’s wildlife – a small minority will be the ones to feel the effects of what it means to actually live with wolves. Colorado ranchers, whose values include conservation, biodiversity and protecting open spaces, have already started to see the impacts long before expected and don’t feel equipped to handle wolves being back on their land.
This year, we’ve seen multiple cattle in Northern Colorado killed by wolves that have migrated into our state long before the reintroduction was planned. As a rancher, I know what this means for rural Colorado and the devastating effects this loss can have on one’s livelihood. We care about each and every one of our animals and having to put a mama cow down because she has been gravely injured is a heartbreaking decision. Finding a solution that benefits both ranchers and proponents is essential if we are going to find a way to live with our wildlife.
In February, I met with concerned ranchers and wildlife experts to talk through solutions and draft a proposal for legislation that would provide ranchers with much needed resources. This proposed bill would have created a program within Colorado Parks and Wildlife that would provide financial and technical assistance to livestock owners to enable them to undertake practices and/or implement measures to prevent or minimize predation on livestock by wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, bears and other wildlife species. Some of the measures proposed were fencing, light and noise deterrents, range riders and livestock guardian animals.
Unfortunately, even just the introduction of the bill wasn’t supported by the General Assembly. This rejection serves as a reminder of the promise that I made when I first ran for my position as a state senator: to be a voice for rural and Western Colorado. That is why I’ll keep pushing for support for those who will most acutely feel the impact of the decision made in 2020. To keep my promise, I am asking the General Assembly to support a budget amendment to invest $1.9 million in wolf-predation support. This funding will continue to help CPW address the impacts that the wolf pack has had on cattle ranchers and support a positive reintroduction of wolves to Colorado.
Being a voice for the high country, Western Colorado and those who work in the agriculture industry is my top priority. My job is to carry your voice into the hallways of the Capitol, so please be in touch.
Kerry Donovan was first elected to the Colorado State Senate in November 2014 and re-elected in 2018 to represent Senate District 5, which includes her hometown of Vail. She currently serves as the president pro tempore, the chairwoman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee as well as a member of the Transportation and Energy Committee.