As the discussion of whether wolves should be reintroduced into Colorado heats up, La Plata County’s Living with Wildlife Advisory Board wants to stay true to the facts in its executive summary to commissioners, expected to be released this fall.
“We’re trying to keep it as fact-based as possible because there are a hundred rabbit holes we can go down,” member Todd Bayless said Tuesday at the board’s monthly meeting. “And that’s not what we’re trying to do.”
La Plata County commissioners have tasked the advisory board to come up with a summary report on the pros and cons of reintroducing wolves in Colorado, and more specifically, in Southwest Colorado.
The prospect of bringing wolves back to this portion of the Rocky Mountains has been an impassioned conversation across the state as an effort seeks to put the decision to Colorado voters in 2020.
The advisory board has not taken a stance on the issue, and it’s unclear if it ultimately will, Bayless said.
The summary report will focus on several topics, such as the ecological impacts of reintroduction, possible effects to elk and deer herds, economic issues it could pose for ranchers and agriculture, and public safety issues, among others.
Larry Zauberis, a La Plata County rancher who represents agricultural interests on the advisory board and opposes wolf reintroduction, said it’s difficult to nail down information about the impacts of the animal that isn’t slanted one way or the other.
“I really question some of these statistics,” he said.
Zauberis said despite recent polling that shows the majority of Colorado residents support reintroduction, nearly all members of the ranching and agriculture community are opposed to it.
“Polling in Denver is going to be totally different than polling on the Western Slope,” he said.
Earlier this year, La Plata County Commissioner Julie Westendorff said she’s not sure if the commission should take a side in the debate. However, she said it’s an issue residents are concerned about and warrants further discussion.
“We’ve taken positions on issues in the past, particularly when it deals with the economic interest of the people in our community,” she said.
Either way, a vote from county commissioners for or against reintroduction would not hold any actual weight in the decision-making process, though it would at least provide federal wildlife managers with a stance from a local entity, the advisory board said.