For more than 25 years, Rob Edward, president of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, has dreamed of returning wolves to Colorado.
His vision is now much closer to reality.
On Monday, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced Edward’s campaign had gathered an estimated 139,333 valid signatures — above the 124,632 signatures needed to earn a place the 2020 ballot. If it passes, the measure would require state wildlife managers to reintroduce wolves to Western Colorado by the end of 2023.
“We are extremely excited to move into the general campaign and have a full-throated conversation with Coloradans about what it means to have wolves on the landscape again,” Edward said.
The measure — tentatively known as Initiative 107 — promises a new kind of battle over the controversial predators. In other states, wildlife officials have decided how to manage the animals. The Colorado ballot measure is the first time voters in any state will choose whether to bring back an endangered species.
Hunters eradicated the last wolves from Colorado sometime before 1940. By returning the predators, supporters hope to create an interconnected population of Rocky Mountain wolves that stretches from Alaska to Mexico.
Opponents of the plan could face an uphill battle. An online poll commissioned by wolf supporters found two-thirds of Colorado voters favor reintroduction, while only 15 percent oppose. The survey also didn’t show much of a split between Colorado’s Front Range and the Western Slope, suggesting the issue might not divide urban and rural parts of the state.
Denny Behrens, the co-chair of the Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition, isn’t deterred by the numbers. His group has already pushed 23 rural Colorado counties to pass resolutions declaring their opposition to the initiative. He said the next step of the campaign is to teach the public about the potential harms of wolf reintroduction.