Wyoming Rancher’s Compensation For Grizzly Killed Calves Reduced By $200K
After a lengthy legal battle, a rancher in northwestern Wyoming received nearly $300,000 less than what he'd asked for in compensation after losing numerous calves to grizzly kills and roughly $200,000 less than what an arbitrator awarded him.
Josh Longwell operates a large cattle and sheep ranch in the Owl Creek area of Hot Springs County. Grizzly bears live in the area and frequent the ranchland.
In 2018, Longwell reported finding a number of dead calves from what he believed to be grizzly bear kills. season.
A Wyoming Game and Fish investigation determined that 20 of Longwell's calves had been killed by grizzly bears in an open range setting.
According to a Wyoming Supreme Court opinion, Longwell submitted a verified claim to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department requesting $349,730.20 for his calf losses. In the claim, Longwell alleged that an additional 294 calves were unaccounted for at the end of the 2018 grazing season.
"In other words, Mr. Longwell based his claim on an assumption that for every calf confirmed as killed by a grizzly bear, nineteen others had been killed and their remains could not be found,"
Game and Fish rejected Longwell's claim noting that Longwell used a 20-times multiplier to determine the number of calf losses while Game and Fish regulations state to use a 3.5-times multiplier. Applying the Game and Fish standard, officials agreed to compensate Long well for the loss of 70 calves, totaling $61,202.79.
Eventually, the case ended up in arbitration, in which arbitrators voted 2-1 to award Longwell with $266,695.32.
Following the arbitration ruling, Game and Fish appealed to the Fifth Wyoming Judicial District Court in Thermopolis. Judge Bill Simpson handed down the ruling.
According to the supreme court's discussion and ruling, Longwell admitted that the arbitration ruling may be overturned.
But he reportedly claimed "sending the state a bill" would at least "wake up everybody in the Legislature" and "send a message" to the state that "we need to revisit [the multiplier]" and stand up for private property owners paying the price for the state's mismanagement of the grizzly bear.
The supreme court upheld Simpson's ruling, ultimately compensating Longwell roughly $61,000.
"Because the arbitrators 'made an award on a matter not submitted to them,' we affirm the district court's modification of the arbitrators' award with respect to Mr. Longwell's calf damage claim," the ruling concludes.
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