News Letter: Summer 2004
The Grama grass is Growing & More on Wolves

Rain! we've had some at last, in the fifth year of drought. What's that in the photo you ask? Ah ... something we've not seen in 5 years: blue grama grass. Blue grama is a late season, long lived perennial that grows throughout the Great Plains in all soil types; a good forage for all livestock.

Quite exciting to see after such a long time!

blue grama grass

On a less than satisfactory and reoccurring note: the Plan for Colorado is to introduce wolves. There are two different groups working on this currently ... Colorado Wolf Management Plan Working Group, which is the group coming up with the wolf management plan for Colorado ... as the name suggests ... they intend to put wolves into Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado Grey Wolf Management Plan

There is a separate group entirely from the above group, which is working to bring wolves into RMNP to manage the elk numbers. The Elk & Vegetation Management Plan/RMNP

I have attended their hearings and made comments when permited but in all likelyhood, the predator advocacy groups will win in the end; there are some many more of them than farmers or ranchers and it seems they have endless time and money to devote to their cause.
Below are the comments I have submitted ...

Yellowstone National Park is 3438 square miles, in contrast Rocky Mountain National Park is 414 square miles in area. Well yes, YNP is more than 8 times larger in area than RMNP. Most of Yellowstone is located in Montana with an area of 147,046 square miles, and a population of 902,195. Colorado is 104,100 square miles in area with a population of 4,301,261. Well yes, Montana is 41% larger in land area than Colorado, and Colorado is only 477% larger in population.

Well yes, of course it makes perfect sense to introduce the wolf into a much smaller area that is entirely surrounded by a hugely denser population. It's the American way to squeeze in more and more, have everything one wants ... never mind if the impact on a few people and a good number of other animals, both domestic and wild is lethal? The greater "good" is always served.

When we set out to "tinker" with the balance of land, vegetation, and the animal populations that inhabit that land, the effects can never be guaranteed. What can be certain is that wolves will not stay in RMNP, and they will kill other species besides elk, big horn sheep, moose, deer and beaver (should they be reintroduced to the Park).

The result of the wolves migrating outside the Park is certain losses to our flock of sheep, as our 80 acre farm is located only a few miles down stream on the Little Thompson River. We will also lose the 4 guardian dogs we have currently protecting our flock from the bear, coyote, and cougar. There is no fence we can erect that will keep wolves away from our flock. The wolf pack will kill our sheep and dogs and there will be no way to prevent this. There is never enough funding for compensation for kills, and never any assistance for the ongoing costs of "managing predator control", which we currently bear. There is no monetary compensation ever made for the loss of years of genetic improvement made in a flock when bloodlines are killed ... they are irreplaceable. But I speak selfishly of my own personal loses.

The area surrounding the Park is filled with small acreages where people enjoy "country living" with their horses, cattle, sheep goats, dogs, cats, and other animals. This is the case all up and down the I-25 corridor ... there is no wild, open land surrounding RMNP. Beyond this, the land west of the Park is for the most part ranch land. Wolves, just like any other predator kill whatever is handy, whatever is easy. If the deer and elk have moved to some other range, the cattle or sheep or whatever animals are closest will do just as well to kill and eat.

Years ago the federal government focused on removing wolves because it was clear that they are not compatible in proximity to rural communities, and agricultural and livestock operations. Colorado does not have vast amounts of unoccupied habitat that will insure that wolves can exist without conflict with humans. This is already evident as we see more wolves in conflicts in other states, and the federal government is already having to kill more wolves to stop depredation (i.e. the nine member wolf pack recently killed near McCall, Idaho for killing over 100 head of sheep).

How can it be that the presence of wolves was intolerable 60 to 80 years ago, and yet now is a "good thing" when the human population is so much greater, when the human land use is nearly at its capacity, and we struggle with difficulty to manage the current populations of other wild species in their limited habitats? Whether our current management aim is to lower the numbers of the elk, maintain the numbers of the big horn sheep, or in the case of the beaver reintroduce this beneficial species ... why must these goals be made more difficult by the introduction of the wolves? Whatever limited funding and resources available should be spent on those species we are already committed to preserving, rather than take on a species known to need huge amounts of on-going, long term funding, intense management and monitoring, while posing a lethal threat to other wildlife species including threatened and endangered species. When we have introduced the wolves to our state and find that they reduce elk, deer, moose, and bighorn herds to a level below DOW management objectives what then? More cost and labor to eradicate a problem that was once non-existent? Wolves are not an "environmental tool", not one that we can afford to "try" just to see what happens and appease the whims of some folks who truly believe this is still the wild west.

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No doubt what springs to mind is the thought ... "why don't you just move someplace else?" In as much as wolves, cougar and bear now populate parts of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Maine, and Pennsylvania, it will not be many years before their habitat exists in all states. Already in the past 18 months 3 cougar have been found dead along highways in Iowa, so they have expanded through Nebraska and Iowa now. It would be difficult to relocate to anywhere "safer" as the natural ability of the predator to enlarge its population and spread its habitat, grows, rather than diminishes.

In short, I don't look forward to sheep and dog loses to wolves. It would have been nice to think that over time somehow life on the farm could get easier?

We do look forward to lambing next spring, and visits with friends and family as there is time ... time spent in happier moments! come and visit when you have the time!
Joanna & Keith [an error occurred while processing this directive]