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Session winding down? Bear bill needs a boost

The session is winding down quickly. We are being rushed by close to 100 bills that have been stacked up in the Senate. They are coming to the House in droves and are being hurried through committee hearings. I am committed to voting only on bills that are good for Colorado.

Senator Ellen Roberts’ and my House bill 1276, the bill that would require the courts to keep the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains whole regarding Congressional redistricting, was passed out of the House State and Military Affairs Committee last week and is on the calendar for second readings. We had not had a committee hearing earlier in hopes that the bipartisan redistricting committee would come up with a map that we could all accept, but it appears that may not happen. Nevertheless, the courts need to be directed to keep these communities of interest intact. The bill has little chance of surviving in the Senate, but it makes a statement, and it will be interesting to see how the Western Slope Democrats vote on the bill.

House Bill 1294, the bill that would give the Colorado Division of Wildlife more flexibility to manage black bear, was passed on second readings in the House. Responding to testimony heard against a spring bear hunt in the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, I amended the bill to disallow the hunting of bear during March, April and May.?

We are one vote shy of passing HB 1294 on third reading. I appreciate both Republicans and Democrats who hung with me to try to do the right thing. Regrettably, it is only a matter of time until we have a human/bear tragedy.? We need to be proactive and try to make changes that will lessen that inevitability. The CDOW is responsible for the management of all wildlife in Colorado. Black bear should not be an exception.?

Our next step must be to educate the public on this issue. You would be amazed to know how many people think that bears eat only berries and roots. The media is doing a pretty good job by highlighting incidents where people have been hurt by bear. The two kids who were sleeping in their yard at Cortez and were bitten by a black bear is an example. In Durango last summer was the incident of the bear that consumed a deceased man who had been in a tent on July 9. The next night, on July 10, a bear bit a man who was sleeping outside in a blanket, but he was able to get away from the bear. These are other examples of serious human/bear conflicts that folks need to know about.

In Utah a family that tragically lost a little boy to a bear received $1.6 million from the United States Forest Service in a court case last week.? The CDOW is working on studies that will give us an accurate count on black bear. Eventually, the CDOW will have the authority that it needs to do its job.

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