August 3, 2015
By Bob Cox
Some opinions, comments and links relating to what is happening in this great nation and, in particular, in Western Colorado.
Some of my friends and acquaintances with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife get a little nervous when I start telling them that they are falling prey to the “political correct” crowd on way too many fronts.
An ongoing controversy surrounds the control of bears in Colorado. The latest so-called effort is almost laughable. Earlier this year Rep. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, introduced legislation that would have established a general purpose hunt for black bears during the month of August. There was also a provision that allowed for liquid scents to be used and for optional hunts stretching into October. The solution, as is more and more typical in today’s political environment, also becomes the problem. Opponents of the bill immediately started to scream that the bears were “more vulnerable” during that time and that it would therefore be unfair to hunt them then.
Ultimately, the bill stalled in committee and Willet and his group settled for a completely different statute that provided for a “study” of the problem. That new law went into effect last Wednesday. If studies killed bears, we damn sure would not have the problem. They have been studied for decades and the studies of the studies have been analyzed and re-evaluated so many times that nobody involved can definitively describe the results. So, the obvious answer is to do another study – right?
There are an estimated 18,000 black bears in Colorado and the current management of that population falls on CPW through hunting. The problem with that is that CPW is at the same time severely restricted in how it can use hunting as a management tool. The bear-in-the-room problem is one that CPW personnel is loath to discuss because it is not popular with a lot of people who considered bears little snuggly things back in 1992.
That problem I refer to was known in 1992 as Initiative 10. It became part of the Colorado Constitution through a process that is more than a century old. In the 1970s a lot of people figured out how to manipulate the initiative process and attempt to nullify the idea of representative government in favor of mob-rule, or democracy.
The initiative process in Colorado is famous for, as one federal court opined, “exceeding the reasonable regulation guidelines.” But, for some reason, this initiative, which I think resulted in black bears having constitutional rights, has not been successfully challenged and we cannot approach bear management in Colorado through hunting unless that crazy amendment is trashed. Getting rid of the restriction on spring bear hunting is not something wildlife managers seem willing to support. It just does not coincide with the mandates they are receiving from those Eastern Slope do-gooders.
First of all, initiatives are put on the ballot through a signature process. There are firms out there that will almost guarantee success by getting all the signatures based on the demographics of the state. If the initiative is one that is popular in the extreme liberal side of the spectrum, then the signatures will be gathered mostly in places that have a history of voting for extreme liberal proposals. Of course the opposite is also true. The overwhelming majority of the signatures for Initiative 10 came from large Front-Range Counties that had relatively few hunters and relatively large numbers of extreme environmentalists and animal rights groups.
There were a total of 1,512,292 ballots cast on Initiative 10. Of those voting, 1,054,032 voted in favor and only 458,260 against the initiative. The figures, for what they are worth, show that 70 percent of Coloradoans favored giving constitutional rights to bears. Nothing can be further from the truth, but getting enough support to nullify it will be difficult at best.
What it all boils down to is that CPW will not be able to manage the surging bear population under existing law. They will not be able to substantially curb the bear/human contacts under existing law, and they will not be able to study the bears into slacking off on their need to find food. CPW will be able to do only what they are doing now. Ranchers will continue to lose livestock. Idiots will continue to feed the bears in their backyards, campers will continue to invite nocturnal wrestling matches and legislators will continue to avoid the real issue. All that is the result of my “study.”
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© Robert R. Cox 2015