House Bill 228 is one of two predator wildlife management bill which is winding its way through the legislature. It passed out of committee this week and awaits scheduling on the house floor.
House Bill 228 sponsored by Republican Casey Snider from Paradise takes an existing rule and codifies it into law allowing livestock growers and designees to kill predator species on public land. Snider did not respond to KPCW in time for this story.
The Western Wildlife Conservancy Executive Director Kirk Robinson is concerned about this bill because it allows ranchers to kill bear, cougar and coyote on public lands with no oversight from wildlife management.
“Then, that rancher can get a permit to shoot black bears and mountain lions or maybe even use a neck snare to choke them, and foothold traps and it doesn't matter whether the bear or cougar in question was even responsible for the depredation. So, this basically gives carte blanche to ranchers to clean out bears and cougars of grazing allotments on our public lands with very little oversight. Who's going to go check and see how many sheep they've already lost or when? There's not manpower for anybody to do that."
Robinson founded the non- profit Western Wildlife Conservancy in the 90’s during the time when wolves were being reintroduced to Yellowstone. He thought it would be valuable to help Utahn’s prepare for the eventual migration of wolves back into Utah.
“Large carnivores have always been heavily persecuted in the West, ever since pioneer settlement, and not for no reason at all. But it went way too far. Wolves for example were completely extirpated. Poisons were used, there were no regulations, no protection for the native carnivores and since then we've learned how important they are to ecosystems.”
He says predators need a lot more space to survive than do the herd animals. Their ranges will depend on food sources and healthy habitat.
“We know now that they aren’t like thieves and murderers in human society contributing nothing and only wreaking havoc. We know that they actually play an important role in helping to regulate ecosystems and maintain ecosystem health. You could say that they are the custodians of ecosystems and hence it’s important to protect them.”
A link to HB 228 can be found on KPCW.org