City Council FYI: Biting into trash |

City Council FYI: Biting into trash

Gary Suiter
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs City Council closed the lid on a proposed draft ordinance that would require bear resistant containers for everyone within the city during their work session Tuesday, Feb. 11. 

The ordinance is scheduled to officially come back to City Council for a first reading March 3, tentatively followed by a second reading March 17. During these meetings, the public will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on continuing in this direction for the community.

We should keep in mind that this issue isn’t something that is new, but has been around for nearly 20 years. The city first adopted a wildlife resistant container ordinance in 2001 and has amended the ordinance twice since then, with the latest amendment occurring in 2015. 

Although the city seemed to be taking progressive actions to reduce the number of human-bear conflicts, the number of incidents has continued to grow over the years, especially the past few. This indicates the existing ordinance is falling short of achieving its goals.

So, what exactly is a bear-resistant container? A bear-resistant container is a refuse container that is certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, which puts these products through rigorous testing protocols. A bear-resistant dumpster would be a fully enclosed metal refuse container with either a tight-fitting metal lid or a hardened, plastic lid with metal reinforcement that can be latched into a closed position which prevents access to its contents by wildlife.

With the new regulations, all trash containers would be required to transition to bear-resistant containers and dumpsters. Trash haulers would phase this conversion across the city over three years, with 25% by March 31, 2021; 50% by March 31, 2022; and 100% by March 31, 2023.  

Time and time again, the No. 1 attractant for bears in urban areas is trash. Reducing this attractant means changing both human and bear behavior. The new bear-resistant container ordinance looks to do just that. During the initial roll out, education will play a key role, followed by increased enforcement as the community moves into the second and third year. 

One comment we continue to receive is “I’ve lived here for years and never had a problem — so why make me do this?”  While you may not be the recipient of a bear visit, many of your neighbors have. As the availability to easy food sources, like trash, is reduced, it will only be a matter of time before the bear comes to your trash without a citywide program.

The overall goal of this initiative is to significantly decrease the number of human-bear interactions. Additionally, we’d like to reduce the number of bears that must be euthanized by Colorado Parks & Wildlife or other agencies. Removing access to trash, an easy food source for bears, is one key means to achieve this priority.

We live in a wonderful location that mixes the mountain environment within our city living space. It requires a balance — one that may necessitate us to change the way we have done things, sometimes for years. The new ordinance is such a step and one that must be done together. 

Gary Suiter is the Steamboat Springs city manager.

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