Our view: Steamboat needs to strengthen and enforce its trash codes
Regular readers of “The Record” may have noticed that bear-related calls are on the rise in Steamboat Springs. These calls occur almost daily and, sometimes, multiple times a day, and they can involve one bear or a female bear and her cubs.
It’s easy to laugh at the thought of a family of bears going dumpster diving together outside one of Steamboat’s downtown eateries, but things turn somber when a bear’s search for food puts it in close contact with humans, and wildlife officers are forced to euthanize the animal as occurred less than two weeks ago.
In April, we published an editorial, “Be bear aware,” encouraging citizens to take a few simple steps to reduce human/bear conflicts, like locking vehicles and securing trash correctly. But the continued incidences of bears in trash leads us to believe citizens are not taking personal responsibility for their trash and not abiding by city rules.
And with that in mind, we believe the city needs to adopt a stricter, more proactive trash ordinance.
According to City Manager Gary Suiter, the Steamboat Springs Police Department has received 167 bear-related calls for service so far in 2019, compared to 86 total calls in 2018 and 158 total calls in 2017. The majority of the calls, according to Suiter, were related to bears in trash. And it is interesting to note that so far this year very few tickets have been issued for non-compliance.
In a recent report to council, Suiter said he believed the city was spending “a lot of time and energy being reactive to this issue, rather than proactive.” He went on to say that he had seen other mountain resort communities successfully mitigate the bears-in-trash issue by adopting more progressive solid waste ordinances and an aggressive public education campaign.
We like Suiter’s approach, and we encourage Steamboat Springs City Council to look at taking steps to strengthen Steamboat’s trash ordinance. A good place to start is by reviewing trash ordinances of other communities that have been successful in reducing bear-related trash calls.
Many mountain towns require all residents to purchase bear-resistant trash containers, not just commercial businesses. In 2015, City Council appeared poised to amend the city’s trash code to add that requirement, but negative feedback concerning cost to consumers resulted in the ordinance dying after being approved on first reading.
At issue: Bear-related calls are increasing in the city, and recently, a bear had to be euthanized after it became too comfortable around humans.
Our View: Unsecured trash is attracting more bears to town, and it’s time the city looks at adopting a stricter trash ordinance.
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- Michael Marchand, community representative
- Jim Beers, community representative
Since then, the problem of bears getting into trash has only gotten worse, so we think it’s time for council to once again consider requiring all city residents use wildlife-resistant containers. This could cost citizens around $250 or more, but we think that’s a reasonable price to pay to improve public safety and protect wildlife. And requiring these containers will also cut down on the time city staff spends on responding to bear calls, which is costly in its own right.
And while we wait for City Council to possibly change the local trash code, we think there must be some consideration given to increasing enforcement of the existing code by fining violators. City fines range from $250 to $750 based on number of offenses, and we think the city should look at how many warnings they are giving before a fine is levied. Making people pay penalties often encourages compliance.
We also continue to encourage city residents to properly secure their trash to minimize human/bear conflicts. By taking personal responsibility, you help protect yourself from unwanted bear encounters and could help save another bear from being euthanized.
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