September 10, 2010

Dog Rules Lead to Conflict with Division of Wildlife

Some northern Colorado residents are upset with a Division of Wildlife decision to ban all dogs—except those engaged in hunting—from two state wildlife areas, Lon Hagler and Lonetree Reservoir. (Note sentence in red on the linked pages.)

As reported in the Loveland Reporter-Herald,

State officials have said the ban was the result of complaints from neighbors and hunters about aggressive and unruly off-leash dogs.

The local wildlife manager received 15 complaints over two years, and her boss took seven in the same period, state officials have said.

The meetings were public, but the residents who have come together to try to reverse the ban say they never knew the proposal was even out there.

The information was posted ahead of time on the Colorado Division of Wildlife website. But it was not easy to find.

Loveland resident Connie Kogler — one of the leaders of the Stop the Dog Ban committee — said it took her two full days of digging on the website to find anything.
Now there is an online petition to get the CDOW to reverse its decision.

Neither the petitioners nor the newspaper seem to be addressing the larger issues, however.

One is that state wildlife areas near urban areas are often treated by the non-hunting/fishing public as just more parks or "green space"

This is not their purpose: they provide wildlife habitat and basic hunting/fishing/birding opportunities and only minimal amenities: a parking lot, a boat ramp, maybe an outhouse.

Since hunters and anglers pay for them (the CDOW gets no state tax money), the Division in 2006 required users without a hunting or fishing license to buy a  $10 "habitat stamp."

In 2009, that requirement was quietly dropped, possibly because the CDOW saw it as unenforceable.

Another is the uncontrolled dogs off-leash problem.

Yet another is the "neighbors" issue. How often have we seen someone move in next to a state wildlife area because it is "green space" and then freak out when hunting season comes and ohmygod they are shooting over there.

Of course, if these were state parks there would be lots more regulations, including on dogs, not to mention entrance fees and all the rest.


Connie said...

Chas, I think you're right, there ARE other issues here. In fact, the dog ban issue was started because of neighbors to Lone Tree. I actually liked the habitat stamp option, as I felt I was helping to contribute to the upkeep, (I'm an avid birdwatcher, in addition to enjoying the area with my dogs). Someone mentioned a crew of young people running around and around Lon Hagler - how is that wildlife related?

The fact is hunter and fisherman numbers are dwindling,(and I support the ability to do both, I'm not anti-hunting in anyway) and DOW should look at other ways of funding - and possibly using - these state wildlife areas. Almost all look quite neglected, old and out of date, but what treasures they are for the people of Colorado.

The one Wildlife Commissioner who was present at our meeting, was not, let me say, friendly or open to other possible answers.

Heather Houlahan said...

I am in favor of a habitat stamp option for public lands that are *solely* funded by hunting licenses presently.

Our Game Commission (PA) gets a lot of funding from oil, gas, and timber contracts on state gamelands. That is not "hunter-funded."

I have a hunting license. I don't hunt on public lands anymore, but I do walk my dogs there, and I train SAR dogs on many public lands, mostly gamelands, intensively, year-round.

Barring non-hunters from public "hunting lands" or putting restrictions on them that don't apply to hunters using the same land is a sure way, long-term, to increase anti-hunting sentiment among non-hunters *and* gut public support for maintaining undeveloped wild lands. Why would I stand in front of the bulldozers for *those guys'* playground, when I am not welcome there?

As for complaints, my subjective experience is that if there are 20 complaints about the behavior of uncontrolled dogs in a given area, two of those complaints are Mrs. Grundy bullshit, and 18 are about the same owner who goes every day with his crazy hound.

Tune out Mrs. Grundy, and target your enforcement on that one idiot.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Good points, Heather, especially as regards the public-support issue.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see responsible pet owners get recognized for their efforts with increased access to all kinds of areas. We really need something a lot more intensive than AKC's Canine Good Citizen test. I worked with a group that tried to promote an off leash obedience and responsible owner test that could help municipalities and regulatory agencies control access in an intelligent and fair way. Sadly, for a lot of reasons it hasn't borne much fruit.

SRM said...

From the comments here,it sounds like these activists are interested in turning our State Wildlife Areas into off-leash dog parks.

I have 2 dogs and they travel with me. I keep them on trails so they do not disturb the wildlife that is trying to hang on in a state that is chopping up their habitat increasingly. Most of the people I run into in these natural areas not only allow their dogs to run freely off the trail but bring them to these to do just that.

Not only do off-leash dog walkers want to use State Wildlife Areas to exercise their pets but ATV and dirt bike owners have damaged many areas engaging in their motorized recreation.

We need to keep our State Wildlife Areas for wildlife related recreation. Hunting and fishing is declining but wildlife watching is increasing and we need to find a way to get funds from those of us watching wildlife since it was against the rules (of the federal funds used to purchase many of these areas) to require habitat stamps of us.