Our View: Bear-ish politics | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Bear-ish politics

In early February, five members of Steamboat Springs City Council reversed their initial votes on an ordinance that would have required bear-proof trash containers throughout the community. Instead, council settled for requiring only that owners of commercial dumpsters ensure they are bear resistant. Fines were established, but only a handful have been issued.

Since that time, four bears that broke into homes or other structures here have been euthanized. And the newspaper's reporting confirms that, although Steamboat Springs Police have significantly increased the number of warnings they've given out this summer to citizens who have failed to secure their trash, only a handful of tickets have been written. And still, too many people and businesses are exacerbating our urban bear problem by failing to secure garbage bins and dumpsters. 

City Council might say that, between first and second reading of last winter's ordinance, they listened to their constituents and reconsidered. We would say they backed down from a policy they knew represented the right thing to do. And we intend to make the question of bear-proofing trash receptacles an issue in the fall city council election campaign.

Other mountain towns — from Aspen and Vail (Eagle County) to tiny Lake City — have already stepped up and required bear-proof cans. It's time for Steamboat to do the same.

Anecdotally, the bear problem in the early summer 2015, at least in some neighborhoods, wasn't as acute as in the previous two years. But wildlife officials are telling us the incidence of nuisance bears feasting on garbage has increased in just the past few weeks.

We believe the reluctance in Steamboat to take that step is one of economics, and perhaps indifference. A Steamboat Pilot & Today reporter accompanied a state wildlife officer on a dumpster tour this month. They found that, along the commercial district in the alley behind Lincoln Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets, numerous dumpsters were not secured. Not far away, even the dumpster behind City Hall had a lid that had been left hanging open. 

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We should point out our reporter also visited at least two neighborhoods, the Selbe Apartments and The Ranch at Steamboat, where management has taken extraordinary steps to ensure bears can't get into their trash. 

Steamboat Springs Police report issuing six citations and 19 warnings related to trash violations in the first six month of the year. That compares to two citations and two warnings during the same period in 2014. It's safe to say those number probably grew in July, but we still think the existing level of enforcement is inadequate. 

The city is thinking of adding river rangers to police tubing on the Yampa next summer. If City Council really wants to get serious about our bear problem, it should muster the will to make bear-proof trash containers mandatory and hire a dumpster ranger to make them stick.

At Issue

Only modest progress has been made since City Council reversed its vote on bear-proof trash containers in Steamboat last winter

Our View

If the community wants to get serious about its urban bear problem, it will have to open its collective wallet and maybe hire a dumpster ranger

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