Big bad wolves? | BIDLACK | Opinion

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One of the challenges of writing my twice-weekly missives is Colorado Politics always has more interesting stories than there is space to comment upon them. For today’s column, there was excellent rant bait in a CoPo story that discusses the outrageous and, frankly, stupid efforts by some Republicans in my old home state of Michigan to sue Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems. These eight folks had been spreading Trumpian lies about Dominion’s equipment allegedly switching votes from Trump to Biden, which of course didn’t actually happen. It seems their feelings were hurt when the lawyers for Dominion sent them, among many others, cease and desist letters demanding they stop telling lies about Dominion’s voting machines.

The Michigan 8, as I bet they’d like to be called, having received the letters telling them to stop lying (and that was the entire extent of Dominion’s actions against these silly folks), felt Dominion had inflicted “confusion, fear and emotional distress” on them, poor things. I’d argue such feelings are consistent with getting caught telling lies, especially against a company that took Fox News to court and won a settlement of more than three-quarters of a billion dollars for the lies the folks at Fox told. So, hurt feelings in hand, the 8 sued Dominion over their hurt feelings for having been caught in lying, and a judge just threw their suit out as nonsensical, even labeling it “frivolous.”

But I’m not going to talk about that…

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I’m also tempted to write about my disappointment in U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, whom I recently praised and suggested become the next U.S. House speaker. Having staked out the morally correct and factually accurate position there is no criminal evidence against President Joe Biden and an impeachment would be wrong and a political stunt, Buck voted with all the other GOPers (including all the Colorado ones) in support of opening what they are calling an impeachment “inquiry,” since they seem to sense they don’t have enough dirt for an actual impeachment. Clearly, this is just an effort to somehow normalize the idea we just impeach every president and former presidents, rendering the idea less impactful. The Biden effort is patently partisan, unlike the impeachments of Trump, which had actual charges and some bipartisan support. I had hoped Buck, having declared himself free of reelection needs, would have voted for what’s right, but he didn’t.

But I’m not going to talk about that…

Instead, I’d like to draw your attention to another CoPo story about the reintroduction of gray wolves back into what was their territory for tens of thousands of years. Colorado voters endorsed the reintroduction back in 2020, but it’s important to remember that vote was largely decided by the more liberal folks in bigger cities up and down the Front Range, over the objections of the far more sparsely populated and far more conservative agricultural areas to the east and especially the west.

Ranchers understandably object to the reintroduction of wolves, as it is quite clear that, from time to time, wolf packs do, in fact, prey on domestic livestock and even pets. The idea of bringing wolves to the ranchlands of Colorado is extremely distressing for the folks who make their livings off the land (and feeding us city folks). The CoPo story reports an additional $2 million is coming to Colorado to help with the costs of wolves, and that’s a good thing.

Though it is absolutely understandable for ranchers to object to the reintroduction, it is also important to note they are repaid for livestock losses to wolves, at a rate of up to $15,000 per animal killed by wolves. Sure, it is an absolute inconvenience for a rancher to have to document the wolf kills and fill out the needed paperwork for reimbursement, it strikes me as a reasonable part of a wider wolf reintroduction program. It’s the “least bad” idea, so to speak.

And it is not entirely clear how widespread a wolf predation problem will even become. A biologist named Ed Bangs, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who led the reintroduction of wolves in the mid 1990s to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, noted “95% of ranchers in Colorado will never have a problem… 4.5% will have the occasional problem every couple of years maybe, and maybe one or two guys will have a problem like every other year. I don’t think it’s enough to put them out of business.”

As reported in the CoPo story, “In 2022, gray wolves attacked domesticated animals hundreds of times across 10 states in the contiguous U.S. including Colorado, according to an Associated Press review of depredation data from state and federal agencies. Attacks killed or injured at least 425 cattle and calves, 313 sheep and lambs, 40 dogs, 10 chickens, five horses and four goats, according to the data.” If it is your cattle, your dog, or your horse that is lost to wolves, anger is an understandable and reasonable response. But anger and inconvenience are not reason enough to reject the return of alpha predators to their ancestral hunting grounds. 

Those who love the wolves coming back will also have to accept that, from time to time, some wolves will need to be culled from their packs if they become too comfortable with humans and their critters.

I support the reintroduction of wolves, as part of the wonderous array of flora and fauna here in Colorado. I regret some will be more inconvenienced than others, but government must always seek to balance the legitimate rights and values of all the people. We’ll see how it goes.

Stay tuned.

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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