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Another attack on the Western Slope

  • Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board

  • Mar 21, 2024

  • from Colorado Politics

When urban Front Range liberals released wolves on Western Slope farmers and ranchers, they illustrated how 51% of voters can tyrannize the other 49%. In this case, a slim majority brazenly imposed liability on a large minority. Wolves kill livestock, outdoor pets and on rare occasions, children.

Because the wolves certainly will kill livestock and herding animals, the Legislature in 2023 passed Senate Bill 255. It established the half-million-dollar Wolf Depredation Compensation Fund to reimburse “people who suffer damages because of gray wolf depredation.”

“Wolf depredation’ means that a gray wolf has caused direct physical trauma resulting in the death of or injury to livestock or to a livestock guard or herding animal,” the bill explains.

It is the least the Legislature could do to mitigate some of the looming harm a majority imposed on everyone else. Yet, what the Legislature giveth, the Legislature can taketh away — or regulate into near irrelevance.

Today, legislators want to gum up the compensation fund with bureaucratic hurdles that will impose costs on farmers and ranchers. Under House Bill 1375, Western Slope residents would qualify for compensation only after proving they were kind to the wolves that preyed on their animals.

Sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Priola and state Rep. Tammy Story, the bill excludes from compensation any applicants who have failed to implement “nonlethal coexistence strategies.”

The bill also disqualifies applicants for compensation if they fail to “appropriately dispose of a livestock carcass in a manner that makes the livestock carcass inedible for native carnivores (wolves),” explains the bill.

The bill would eliminate compensation for a “livestock guard or herding animal,” restricting it to a dead or injured “livestock guardian dog.”

“Coexistence strategies” mentioned in the bill include “carnivore-proof fencing,” “fladry” (i.e. rope-mounted flags), “fox lights,” and “training in the application of animal husbandry practices that minimize the risk of wolf depredation.”

The bill directs the Division of Parks and Wildlife to administer community grants to help pay for “coexistence strategies,” including compensation for livestock range riders and educational programs.

If this bill becomes law, compensation becomes control. It requires farmers and ranchers to spend time and money trying to “coexist” with creatures that have historically been anathema in livestock country. When wolves attack livestock, the owners will be made whole by the state — if, and only if, they prove to authorities that they employed extraordinary measures to correct the instinctive actions of wolves.

A slim majority of urban Front Range voters control every component of state government. They don’t see rural Colorado as the home of generations of families devoted to growing and raising the food the rest of us need. Peaches, grapes and charcuterie come from Safeway, after all.

Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and other parts of the urban corridor took land that once belonged exclusively to wild, predatory animals. Yet too many residents of these cities frown on farmers and ranchers who don’t want predatory animals on the properties they call home.

The Western Slope is not a wildlife preserve. It is settled land owned and maintained by humans who have the right to survive and prosper. Compensation for a self-righteous urban experiment is more than reasonable. It should not force victims of wolf attacks to coddle and “coexist” with predators others unleashed on them.

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