Election officials in the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office have completed a review of submitted signatures and on Monday announced that voters this fall will face a ballot initiative that would reintroduce wolves in the state.

Voters will be asked whether to require state wildlife commissioners to reintroduce gray wolves by the end of 2023 on public land in western Colorado, west of the Continental Divide, and set up a fund to compensate livestock owners for any losses.

Colorado for years has rebuffed efforts to bring back wolves. In 2016, wildlife commissioners passed a resolution committing the state to oppose any reintroduction.

The review of signatures submitted in December for a “restoration of gray wolves” qualified for the 2020 General Election ballot because analysis of a random sample of the signatures found more than enough were valid.

Proponents contend introducing wolves in western Colorado would help restore ecological balance by bringing a much-needed predator for out-of-kilter deer and elk herds. Wildlife advocates see Colorado as a missing link in efforts to connect wolf habitat from the Arctic to Mexico.

“This is historic, the first time people of a state will have the chance to directly say we want to restore an endangered species,” said Rob Edward, president of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, which drove the push for a place on the ballot.

“When all else fails and bureaucratic entities don’t reflect the will of the people, you can go to the people and ask: ‘What do you say?’ ”

Pro-wolf advocates planned to ramp up their campaign for public support.

But Colorado livestock groups and local leaders in a dozen counties oppose the measure. The opponents argue that wolves – unlike lynx, moose, prairie chickens and other previously seeded species – cannot peacefully coexist in a state with almost 6 million people.

Colorado “Stop the Wolf” campaign leaders couldn’t immediately be reached Monday.

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