Trap Sheet

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Trapping seemed the only option. Gredig decided to take advantage of Amendment 14's thirty-day exemption period for ranchers and farmers, and on June 14, a local contract trapper, Judy Schilling, set ten snares on Gredig's land. By July 13, however, nothing had been caught. But Gredig had reached a decision: He wanted to keep the traps in place, and he wanted to sign up for the campaign against the trapping ban. The Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund was only too happy to oblige. "This was virtually a tailor-made situation," acknowledges Caley. "So we said, 'Well, might as well go for it.'"

In late July, Gredig set four of his own snares and alerted the local game warden, Kevin Wright.

"We almost had to beg the DOW to give us a citation," Caley recalls. "We called them and told them we were still trapping. They said, 'Aw, don't worry about it.' So then we told them we would have to call the neighbors if they didn't cite us and that they would probably call the press. So eventually the DOW said, 'Well, we have to do some research about the citation...'"

The Gredigs finally persuaded Wright that they were serious about breaking the law, and on August 4, two DOW agents stopped by the family's ranch. Caley offered them coffee. The agents asked John again if he was sure he wanted to go through with the crime. He assured them he was, so they sprang and confiscated the traps, took some pictures, issued the citation and left. On September 14 the case went to trial in front of Pitkin County Judge Fitzhugh "Tom" Scott.

As each of the trappers' cases had come up for consideration, Swain had been honing her reasoning. "We had been refining our arguments during the first two cases," she says. By the time Gredig's case was up, Swain's presentation on the Public Trust Doctrine was sharp. "We argued hard that wildlife needed to be managed for everyone, and not just for the people who voted against Amendment 14," she says. Two days after Christmas, the judge issued his decision.

"Amendment 14 represents an improper control of administration of wildlife by citizen initiative in violation of...the Colorado Constitution and the Public Trust Doctrine," he wrote. "Hence, Amendment 14 is unconstitutional, and the defendant is accordingly acquitted."

The Pitkin County District Attorney's Office has signaled that it aims to appeal the decision; in the meantime, the trapping ban will remain in effect. Yet for the past two months, the trappers have been on a roll. The decision has bolstered their spirits and -- more important -- the campaign against Amendment 14.

After Scott's decision, "the support we've been nursing along all year started pouring in," Fae says exaltedly. "People want to be on a winning team. These groups are hit with so many legal issues anymore, they have to pick and choose which they're going to support."

The Angells, meanwhile, admit they were caught off-guard. "We waited to disband PAWW for two years after Amendment 14 passed," says a glum Bob Angell. "We thought that would be long enough. Obviously, it wasn't."

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Eric Dexheimer
Contact: Eric Dexheimer

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