By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association felt the Wyoming Supreme Court made the right decision when it ruled against a Hot Springs County rancher who requested more than $300,000 in compensation for his calves killed by grizzlies.
In late April, the Supreme Court ruled against cattle and sheep rancher Josh Longwell, who in 2018 requested nearly $350,000 in compensation from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department after finding a number of his calves had been killed by grizzly bears.
The Supreme Court denied this, ruling that the more than $61,000 the rancher received in compensation was fair.
Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the Supreme Court made the right decision in the ruling, even if Longwell did not get the amount of money requested.
“I feel for Mr. Longwell and he has suffered severe losses,” Magagna said. “But at the same time, the law is what it is.”
Ken Hamilton, executive director of the Wyoming Farm Bureau, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the issue was more than the ruling for money, but rather about hunting grizzly bears.
“By protecting the grizzly bear under the federal Endangered Species Act, it shifts these costs back to the rancher and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department,” he said. “We’ve run into this before where the federal government is anxious to protect an animal, but they’re not anxious to accept the responsibility of that.”
Hamilton said that until animals such as the grizzly bear or gray wolf can be removed from the endangered species list, states will not be able to manage them the way they should properly be.
A Game and Fish Department investigation determined 20 of Longwell’s calves had been killed by the bears. But in the compensation request, Longwell noted that 294 calves were unaccounted for by the end of the 2018 grazing season.
“Mr. Longwell based his claim on an assumption that for every calf confirmed as killed by a grizzly bear, 19 others had been killed and their remains could not be found,” the ruling said.
The Game and Fish Department rejected this claim, but officials agreed to compensate Longwell for the loss of 70 calves, an amount that totaled $61,202.79.
However, the case went into arbitration and Longwell was awarded $266,695.32. The Game and Fish Department appealed the decision, which ultimately reached the Supreme Court.
“We are sympathetic to Mr. Longwell’s plight. His frustration with the grizzly bear predation occurring on his ranch is obvious…,” the ruling said. “However, as the court also recognized, Mr. Longwell’s remedy lies with the [Game and Fish] Commission or the legislature, not this court.”