From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 1 - April 4, 2002
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Ingalls wins bear claim

by Cat Urbigkit

Ingalls wins bear claim

District Court Judge Terry Rogers ruled last Wednesday that an arbitration panel was correct in awarding cattleman Dan Ingalls $39,846 in compensation for cattle killed by grizzly bears on his Bridger-Teton National Forest grazing allotments in 2000.

Rogers issued his ruling at the conclusion of a 40-minute hearing in Jackson in which Assistant Wyoming Attorney General Lynda Cook argued that the state compensation statute "does not create a welfare payment program for ranchers" and that the arbitration panel had exceeded its authority in making its determination.

When Ingalls brought his cattle off mountain allotments in the fall of 2000, 24 were missing, his attorney Richard Mulligan told the court. Two of the animals had been killed by wolves and Ingalls figured another five head of cattle would have been a normal death loss. That left 17 cattle missing and grizzly bear depredations had been a problem throughout the grazing season, according to Ingallsí records.

Under state law in Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is responsible for compensating property owners for livestock losses to grizzlies. Ingalls filed a claim with the state agency seeking compensation for the 17 cattle.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department personnel determined that four calves were killed by grizzlies, and that another four calf kills investigated were not killed by grizzlies. The WG&F Commission offered Ingalls a payment of $15,624, factoring the four confirmed calf kills, multiplied by 1.67, which takes into account that not all calf kills are found. The award denied all claims for cows. Ingalls, pursuant to state law, requested an arbitration panel hear the matter.

The panel met last July and rendered a decision awarding Ingalls $39,846, more than twice the amount the agency had offered. Unhappy with the decision by the panel, the state agency filed an appeal in district court in Jackson.

Cook argued that Ingalls had not properly applied for damages and that some damages were not caused by grizzlies, but were caused by wolves. Cook argued that Ingalls was seeking state compensation for the loss of two calves to wolves, but Mulligan said her argument was factually incorrect because Ingalls had deducted those losses.

Cook also argued that the arbitration panel had improperly used a multiplier effect. She said while the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and its commission may use the multiplier, it was improper for the arbitration panel to have done so.

Rogers rejected all three of these arguments. Shortly after Cook gave her rebuttal to Mulliganís arguments, Rogers issued his ruling from the bench, stating that Ingalls had properly applied for the compensation and that the arbitration panel had not exceeded its authority.

Rogers then denied the stateís request to vacate the arbitration panel award.

"It shouldnít have been this hard," Ingalls said at the conclusion of the hearing. "Iíve gone to a great deal of expense to try to make the Wyoming Game and Fish Department follow the law."

Ingalls continued: "It was a good decision. Itís good for all the (livestock) producers. It upholds the intent of the legislatureís damage claim law."

"The arbitration board told them to pay and the judge told them to pay," Ingalls said. "Weíll see if they pay it now."

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