Livestock insurance a reasonable approach
To the editor,
With wolf reintroduction on the Colorado ballot for 2020, cattle ranchers and livestock owners have been up in arms. Wolves were hunted to extinction in Colorado in the 1940s, largely at the hands of ranchers seeking to protect their livestock. Understandably, they worry that the reintroduction of wolves could mean the loss of profit and animal lives. Most ranchers argue that wolves should not be reintroduced, or that losses due to reintroduction should be covered by the government.
Historically, insurance has offered individuals protection from random, low frequency events, such as fires, earthquakes and floods. In this model of insurance, many people join a pool of covered individuals each paying into a pot of money that is used to reimburse a covered member who suffers a loss. Although insurance can be costly, it is undertaken regularly by individuals who understand the risks of living on planet Earth, where humanity is a relatively new species. However, many ranchers view the exposure to natural predators, and therefore needing to protect the value of their livestock with insurance, as an unjust burden.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately only one cow out of every 44,853 is killed by wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where the vast majority of wolves in the West live. Statistically, individuals are significantly more likely to be affected by a natural disaster than ranchers are to lose an animal to wild predation.
The question is, why do ranchers feel that they should not have to respond as all other individuals and businesses in the face of the random, low frequency and uncontrollable natural forces by obtaining insurance? Already, the public funds cattle ranchers through subsidies including grazing rates on public lands, as well as publicly provided range improvements. Why are the priorities of livestock, which are not native to these lands, placed above the creatures that have lived here harmoniously long before our arrival?
The State of Colorado has paid dearly for the slaughter and extinction of wolf populations. Without ample predators, entire ecosystems begin to degrade. In the absence of wolves, Colorado elk populations have increased rapidly, causing overgrazing, water contamination and soil erosion, among other problems. This negatively affects not only every species in our Colorado ecosystems, but also livestock and livestock owners, who depend on healthy, thriving land.
In addition to these priceless losses, should taxpayers also be held responsible for covering rancher’s losses when nature runs its course?
– Jamie Blatter, Durango