OUT: Sunday Column January 18, 2009

All-terrain vehicle ads in foundation magazine criticized

Elk Foundation criticized for accepting all-terrain vehicle advertisements

It’s only mid-January but outdoors news is piling up like new snow at Telluride.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is taking a bit of heat over some ads for all-terrain vehicles the Elk Foundation ran in its magazine, The Bugle.

Apparently some RMEFers think the organization’s recent publication of ATV advertising runs counter to the organization’s stated goal to “ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat.”

ATV use by 2004 had grown to 51 million riders, according to numbers from the U.S. Forest Service. Off-highway and ATV groups want us to believe it’s only a few bad apples responsible for habitat degradation, landowner conflicts and a growing dislike of the proliferation of ATVs.

In his group’s defense, Elk Foundation spokesman Troy Sweet responded to the complaints, admitting some of the recent ads don’t meet the Elk Foundation’s “Ride Right” campaign criteria and saying, “we’d love to see more scofflaws caught, handed stiff fines and stripped of hunting privileges.”

He also defended accepting unpopular ads from ATV manufacturers and energy-development companies by saying “a full-page ad in Bugle brings in enough money to make a real difference in elk country.”

Those words, not surprisingly, were enough to inflame David Petersen of Durango, the Colorado director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and an RMEF member.

Not one to mince words, Petersen retorted, “RMEF does essential work, but in recent years (has) become amoral money-grubbers, selling out first to the energy industry and now to ATVs.”

Surely this rodeo has a ways to go.

Hunting season dates: The Colorado Wildlife Commission didn’t really abbreviate the second combined deer and elk season this year. Sharp-eyed reader Greg Corle prefers to hunt that season with his sons and discovered in a recent article that I inadvertently shorted the trio a couple days.

The commission approved a full seven-day season running Oct. 31 through Nov. 6.

And if you really like to plan ahead, the deadline this year for filing a limited-license application is April 7.

Legislative watch:  It never pays to leave unwatched those rascals you elected to the statehouse, and this session proves it again.

There already are a handful of bills aimed at your hunting and fishing dollars, a topic most legislators know very little about. If you need proof, try sitting through a Joint Budget Committee hearing and count the number of times those inestimable members try to discuss the Division of Wildlife’s budgetary share of “tax dollars.”

As we know, the DOW doesn’t get any tax dollars, but somehow that perpetually escapes those people elected to represent our interests.

Two recently introduced bills are immediate concern. One particularly vexing legislation, Senate Bill 024, would rewrite the rules on game damage payments, allowing a landowner to charge up to $2,500 trespass fees (it’s currently topped at $100) before becoming ineligible for game damage payments.

I can’t think of many residents willing or able to pony up a couple Grover Clevelands for stepping across a fence to shoot an elk that ostensibly belongs to the public. It’s just another move toward making hunting a sport for the wealthy.

The bill also demands the DOW provide game damage materials (which it does free) within 15 days of a landowner demanding said materials. If the materials, which range from fencing to stout elk-resistant panel, don’t reach the forgetful rancher by then, the DOW has to pay to have the material installed.

No matter if the rancher decided until the elk are down on his hay before realizing it’s winter and elk get hungry in winter, or that DOW personnel (as they were during last year’s feeding operations in Gunnison and Eagle) might be busy dealing with what some people consider a real crisis.

Last year, the DOW provided $680,000 in game damage materials and paid nearly $1 million in game damage claims.

Or more rightly, I should say sportsmen paid that, since the money comes out of our pockets through hunting and fishing licenses.

Senate Bill 027, titled “Concerning the protection of the Public from Coyotes,” almost needs no comment. Apparently it’s not enough for some Front Range legislators that coyotes are legal year-round, 24/7, and only a small-game license is needed to harvest them.

The bill demands the DOW and the state commissioner of Agriculture make it “a higher priority” to protect humans from four-legged riffraff in urban areas. The bill doesn’t say how but in typical legislative mouthwash it requires the DOW and the Ag commissioner to report back on their success.

A howling success, we would expect.


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