Editorial more at stake than deer

Editorial: More at stake than deer

March 14, 2002 The Denver Post
We have long suspected that Boulder County, as a body politick, did inhale during the '60s, and that there was powerful stuff in the bong, dude. Otherwise, the county's reticence in cooperating with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to control a disease that threatens wild deer makes no sense.

Boulder County residents are justly proud of the open space they set aside to preserve scenic beauty and wildlife for public enjoyment. That's fine. But Boulder County shouldn't be allowed to impose its fuzzy-headed thinking on more than 4 million other Coloradans. When the DOW proposed killing more of the deer in Boulder County because of an outbreak of chronic wasting disease - in one area, 33 percent of the deer killed had the fatal disease - county commissioners balked at the idea and agreed to only limited cooperation.

Numerous residents protested the DOW proposal, and the commission voted 2-1 to limit the division's ability to kill wild deer in Boulder County parks and open space lands. (The dissenting vote belonged to Commissioner Jana Mendez, who outright opposed killing any deer.)

Boulder Countians seem to regard the wild deer as stage props to enhance their own private tableaux, with nary a thought to the possibility these animals might bear a disease that could wipe out all of Colorado's deer and elk.

What's at stake is more important than the unrealistic fantasies of some of the county's 291,288 residents.

Because of Colorado law, Boulder County has the same rights as any private property owner to refuse to allow the DOW on its property to control diseases in wild animals. Technically, the county could force the state to get a court order to kill deer that the DOW is responsible for under the law. One is left to contemplate the possibility that the law cuts both ways: If Boulder County's intransigence costs the rest of the state's deer herd, it could be subject to suit by adjacent counties. That's a scenario we'd never want to see unfold.

Chronic wasting disease is only the most recent example of Boulder County trying to prove itself more special and more equal than anyplace else in the state. It's too late to exclude Boulder County from Colorado, and we doubt we could hoodwink Kansas into accepting such an eccentric outpost.

We suggest the legislature may want to decide whether the peculiar status of counties-as-private-property-owners is an unrealistic concept when a major health or safety issue is involved - one that needs to be consigned to the same dustbin as other feudal prerogatives.

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