Update, 1/7/20: Initiative 107 qualified for the 2020 ballot after a sufficient valid voter signatures were turned into the Secretary of State’s office.

Colorado might be getting a little more populated in 2023.

On Tuesday morning, the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF) handed over 211,093 signatures to the Colorado’s Secretary of State’s office in support of a petition to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado. The signatures, which have been collected across the state since June, will take 30 calendar days to be validated by Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office. If enough are validated (124,632 are required), the petition will become an initiative on the 2020 statewide ballot.

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project and the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund started gathering signatures this past summer with the help of nonprofits like Defenders of Wildlife, the Wild Foundation, and the Endangered Species Coalition, in the hopes of adding wolves back into Colorado’s natural landscape.

“Delivering these signatures is the first step toward restoring an interconnected population of wolves that stretches from the high Arctic southward to the Mexican border, bringing back a true American species,” Joanna Lambert, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Boulder and a member of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, said at a press conference.

More than 200,000 signatures were submitted in support of restoring gray wolves in Colorado. Photo by Victoria Carodine

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project works to educate the public about wolf ecology and behavior in the hopes of restoring wolf populations back in Colorado. “Gray wolves have been roaming the wild lands of North America for almost a million years. Yet, sometime early in the 1940s, Colorado’s last wolf howled its very last howl,” Lambert said. “Our best peer-reviewed science tells us that native species like wolves are essential to the delicate balance of species, species interactions, and ecosystem health.”

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado’s Cattlemen Association, and the Colorado Wool Growers’ Association all openly oppose the initiative making the 2020 ballot. Many organizations have joined the Stop the Wolf Coalition which is made up of sportsmen, farmers and ranches, and individuals who are concerned about wolf reintroduction in Colorado.

The signatures, which were originally due by December 13, are expected to be validated by the Secretary of State’s office by January 9. If enough are verified, the petition will be the first time in U.S. history that a restoration initiative of an endangered species will be decided by voters. If Coloradans vote in favor of reintroducing wolves, Colorado Parks and Wildlife would take over implementation and management. And by 2023, Colorado could be home to 20–30 gray wolves.

“By restoring wolves, our state can serve as a model of what good stewardship of public lands and wild landscapes looks like.”

Victoria Carodine
Victoria Carodine
Victoria Carodine is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.