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Time for reasonable Front Rangers to recognize wildlife extremism

Throngs of visitors to the Mile High City make their way to the National Western Stock Show in Denver each January. For many, it’s a tradition to take in a rodeo or a draft horse pull, wander through booths with a red beer in hand to browse Western goods, find a new felt cowboy hat to add to their collection, and then inject some of their hard-earned dollars into Denver’s economy through a steak dinner. A ballot proposal in the city and county of Denver would criminalize the sale of that cowboy hat. It would also criminalize the sale of many of the beautiful, artisan Native American items sold at the Denver March Powwow, now in its 48th year, and the Colorado Indian Market and Southwest Art Fest. And as sportsmen gather for the International Sportsmen’s Expo, there will be no legal avenue to purchase fishing flies, hand tied by masters, that use tiny bits of wild fur.

These are merely a few of the effects of one of the proposals to ban fur sales. The proposal to ban slaughterhouses in Denver is equally nefarious, and the effects of that will reach lamb consumers and producers from coast to coast. The primary facility affected if the proposal were to pass is Superior Farms, the largest lamb processor in the state and the source of nearly all the lamb found in restaurants and grocery stores in Colorado and the United States at Walmart, Kroger, HEB and 19 other grocery retailers.

And because, apparently, we learned nothing about the disastrous results of ballot-box biology and allowing extremist-driven and -funded wildlife management, there will also likely be a ballot question about outlawing the hunting of mountain lion, bobcat and lynx. Notably, lynx is federally, and state-protected though I’m told the proponents included it “just in case” the species is ever unlisted. That used to occur periodically, as I recall.

The group pushing the mountain lion and bobcat hunting ban, Cats Aren’t Trophies (CATs), appears to have some connections to Wild Earth Guardians, which should sound familiar to those following along with regard to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission appointees who ought not be confirmed by the Senate. CATs also count Carole Baskin, of "Tiger King" fame, among their spokesmen, which seems a bit dubious at best.

Dan Gates, executive director of Coloradans for Responsible Wildlife Management, said the push to ban mountain lion, bobcat and lynx hunting isn’t new. The group previously approached the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and were rejected unanimously. Two of the instances where their attempts were thwarted were by Gov. Jared Polis’s own appointees. With three swings and misses, they tried the legislative route in 2022 finding a willing sponsor in Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, whose name often appears on bills pushed by animal rights extremist groups.

The bill was killed on a vote of 4-to-1 in the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Public comment in support and opposition required three hours and additional seating in the room. Notably, one of Gov. Polis’s most recent appointments to the CPW Commission, Jessica Beaulieu, testified in support of the bill. She’ll be standing before the Senate Ag Committee once again in the coming weeks.

As I reported in The Fence Post Magazine, CPW released a fact sheet on mountain lion management that confirms mountain lions as a game species (ban proponents including Pat Craig, founder of the Wild Animal Sanctuary, claimed in a guest commentary mountain lions are not hunted for meat or management, though hunters of mountain lions are required to prepare big game for human consumption) and said lion populations have grown in Colorado since 1965 when classified as a big game species. CPW said bobcat populations are also stable and may be increasing in some areas.

According to CPW, healthy and robust lion and bobcat populations, which Colorado’s current management is designed to maintain, are important to functioning ecosystems. CPW values carnivores and their prominent role in our landscapes, and harvesting a sustainable number of carnivores each year doesn’t reduce the ecosystem services provided by the larger population. CPW’s demonstrated track record of promoting and protecting strong mountain lion, bobcat and lynx populations across the state supports CPW’s mission of conserving wildlife and providing sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations to serve as active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.

This track record of the successful management of the state’s 961 species is a result of management guided by the North American Model for Wildlife Management. It doesn’t come on the back of pedestalizing a handful of photogenic carnivores. It doesn’t come on the back of allowing the noisy minority to dictate management of which they know exceptionally little. It comes on the back of the professionals who have made wildlife management their lives.

Successful management of Colorado’s wildlife, which belongs to hunters, anglers and ranchers as much as to animal rights extremists, depends upon the agriculture producers who supply the majority of the lands where wildlife is found and it depends upon the hunting and angling community who, in large part, foot the bill. Now, we find ourselves at a point where it also depends upon reasonable Front Range voters to put their foot down, recognize these extremist efforts for what they are, and vote no.

Rachel Gabel writes about agriculture and rural issues. She is assistant editor of The Fence Post Magazine, the region’s preeminent agriculture publication. Gabel is a daughter of the state’s oil and gas industry and a member of one of the state’s 12,000 cattle-raising families, and she has authored children’s books used in hundreds of classrooms to teach students about agriculture.

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