As the 1990s ended, we had gathered enough preliminary evidence to suggest that Colorado would be a great place for wolves. As hoped, these findings sparked the interest of several scientists and national conservation groups and ultimately led to the formation of the Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Project, a coalition of groups led by Sinapu and the Sierra Club.
By the spring of 2003, years of painstaking work to assemble the scientific case for wolves in Colorado paid off. Building upon the work of Sinapu and others, a team of world-renowned scientists published the results of an exhaustive study, noting that Colorado’s Rocky Mountains could support nearly 1,000 wolves. This great news followed on the heels of a public opinion study that showed overwhelming support for restoring wolves to Colorado.
As the stars began to align for wolves in the Southern Rockies, the Bush administration attempted to put legal protections for wolves on a fast track to oblivion late in 2003. In response, Sinapu and many of our national partners joined forces to sue the government over their premature efforts to declare wolves as “recovered. Given our direct attack against the Bush Administration’s wolf policy, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when the re-election campaign for George W. Bush rolled out an ad on terrorism featuring wolves as the visual centerpiece.
Fortunately, despite its Orwellian overtones, the Bush campaign’s wolf ad can’t erase the tremendous progress that conservationists have made on behalf of wolves during the past decade. We’ve got the science and the good will of the public on our side. No longer can the government ignore the importance of the Southern Rocky Mountains for wolves—and vice versa. No longer can the livestock industry insist that there’s no room for wolves in Colorado. No longer will the public accept the impoverished landscape as a given.
Recalling the sounds of the Little Piedra River, where I once howled my hopes to the wind, I wonder how near the day might be when I might finally hear an answer to that howl. The pulse of the land seems feeble in the silence. Still, the wild heart beats steadily, anticipating the refrain.
This essay originally appeared in Comeback Wolves: Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home (Johnson Books. 2005.). For more information on wolves and the other native carnivores of Colorado, visit http://www.Sinapu.org.