With an unofficial count of 50.3% to 49.7%, Proposition 114 has apparently passed in Colorado, approving the reintroduction of gray wolves in the state.
The Associated Press has not yet called the race, but a major opposing group has conceded.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife will now come up with a plan to reintroduce grey wolves west of the Continental Divide before the end of 2023. Compensation will be provided for anyone whose livestock herds are attacked by wolves.
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, a backer of the proposition, said this is the first time citizens have voted to initiate the restoration of a native species.
“Voters throughout Colorado took politicians out of the picture, choosing to restore natural balance by returning wolves to their rightful place in Colorado,” said Rob Edward, fund president.
Edward said the reintroduction of wolves will reduce rates of elk and deer herds, which are overpopulated in the area and have harmful impacts on habitats.
“Our supporters believe that we owe it to future generations to leave the world in better shape than before,” Edward said. “History will judge their labor, and this vote, kindly.”
The vote for Proposition 114 was the closest of Colorado’s 11 statewide ballot measures, with the results being called last amid rumors of a recount.
Nearly 3 million votes were cast on the proposition, according to the Associated Press. It passed by 20,288 votes. A margin of 7,477 votes or less would have triggered an automatic recount.
The proposition faced stiff opposition from farmers and ranchers.
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association said it is “disheartened” and “fearful” of the passage of Proposition 114.
“While voters spoke by passing Proposition 114, we still believe that Coloradans want responsible wildlife management, not unbridled wolf introduction, at all costs,” said CCA President Janie VanWinkle.
CCA said the reintroduction of gray wolves should not have been decided by the voters.
To mitigate concerns of opponents, CCA said the state must ensure those directly impacted have a voice, uphold the rights of livestock producers to defend their livelihoods and guarantee comprehensive wolf management efforts.
The proposition was generally supported by voters in Front Range counties where wolves would not be located and opposed in places where wolves have already been sighted.
“Together with biologists, ranchers, wildlife watchers and hunters, we will lean in to craft a future where co-existing with wolves is a widely shared value,” Edward said. “We will put science to work to build understanding and trust.”
“As we do, wolves will quietly get to work, restoring balance to our Western wildlands.”