Our view: It’s time to embrace bear-resistant trash containers | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: It’s time to embrace bear-resistant trash containers

On Tuesday, March 3, Steamboat Springs City Council is scheduled to discuss, on first reading, a new trash ordinance aimed at combatting the escalating bears-in-trash problem the city has been grappling with for years. We encourage council members to approve the measure and get the new rules in place before the bears are out of hibernation this spring.

The ordinance will require all city residents and businesses to use wildlife-resistant trash containers certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. For businesses, these containers would also have to be located inside bear-resistant enclosures.

To help minimize impact of the new ordinance on residents, the city proposes to phase in implementation of the ordinance geographically over three years with 25% conversion by March 31, 2021; 50% by March 31, 2022; and 100% by March 31, 2023.

Bear-proof receptacles cost between $230 and $340, and the city has reached an agreement with local trash haulers to supply these containers to customers, and in turn, the haulers will recover the cost by increasing rates over time. For those who can’t afford higher trash prices, the city has subsidy programs in place to help low-income residents with the cost.

The city also will be investing $15,000 to $20,000 into a campaign to educate the public about the new ordinance as it rolls out. This educational approach worked well for the city’s single-use plastic bag ban, and we would expect similar results for this initiative.

Education must then be followed by strict enforcement to ensure the ordinance is fully implemented and has the desired effect of taking away the bears’ food supply and reducing the potential for bear/human conflict. As Keep Routt Wild President Larry Desjardin said at the last council meeting, “Let’s keep bears wild and alive, and our citizens safe.”

City residents still have a chance to weigh in on the proposed ordinance at the March 3 and March 17 council meetings, but we hope council will stay the course and adopt the new ordinance. A similar ordinance died in 2015 after the city received negative feedback about cost.

At a glance

At issue: City Council is poised to approve the first reading of a new trash ordinance next week.

Our View: The ordinance is long overdue and takes a proactive approach toward reducing the potential of human/bear encounters.

Editorial Board

  • Logan Molen, publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Jason Gilligan, community representative
  • Don Moss, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

The bear situation has only gotten worse since, and now is the time for the city to get proactive and require everyone to store trash in bear-resistant containers. Research studies have shown that trash is the main reason bears forage in developed areas, and when communities take action to make their trash containers more bear resistant, bear behavior changes.

We realize there’s a cost involved in this solution, but we believe the benefits to humans and wildlife outweigh the price.

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