Sheep rancher’s fate is now in judge’s hands |

Sheep rancher’s fate is now in judge’s hands

Jeremy Heiman

A ruling by Judge Tam Scott is expected today in the case of a Basalt rancher who has been charged with illegal trapping.

Marsha Swain, a Grand Junction attorney representing John Jacob “Jack” Gredig, filed her closing arguments last Friday. Gredig’s case is connected to a challenge to the constitutionality of Amendment 14, the 1996 citizens initiative that banned certain methods of trapping.

Gredig, a former Pitkin County road and bridge supervisor, received a summons Aug. 4 after he turned himself in for setting four snares on his sheep ranch on Emma Road in Basalt. Attempting to trap predators with such snares was made illegal by Amendment 14.

Swain’s newest filing contends that, because Gredig cannot trap predators on his ranch, he is being deprived of his ability to make his living as he sees fit, which Swain argues is a constitutional right and a fundamental right.

Swain said in a Dec. 14 hearing that Gredig and his family are planning to move away from Emma because the law inhibits his ability to ranch.

“We’re looking at three or four other places in Colorado,” Gredig said that day. “I’m looking for a place where I can shoot predators.”

Gredig testified that he can’t shoot coyotes and foxes that threaten his sheep because it is bounded by Highway 82 on one side, a county road on another, and subdivisions on the remaining two sides. Deprived of the option of trapping, he said he cannot make a living by breeding livestock at the Emma location.

The defense also introduced an expert witness, Major Boddicker of LaPorte, Colo., an outdoor writer who sells wildlife pelts and game calls and performs animal control services. Boddicker said he had testified on three other instances against Amendment 14.

Boddicker’s testimony was to the effect that trapping is not inhumane, in comparison to means of predator control which remain legal, such as poisoning animals with antifreeze.

Assistant District Attorney Trisha Lacey, for the prosecution, said she couldn’t see the relevance of Boddicker’s testimony to the constitutional issue. She said the facts of the case were indisputable, to the extent that they support Gredig’s guilt.

Gredig’s case has become associated with a Saguache-based organization called Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund. One of the fund’s stated purposes is “to raise the money necessary to fund the litigation involved with overturning Amendment 14.” Gredig’s case is one of four statewide being promoted by the fund. The fund is providing Gredig’s legal defense.

If Gredig is acquitted on constitutional grounds at the county court level, the fund intends to appeal the legality of the law to the state Supreme Court. If the defendant is convicted, the strategy will be to appeal the ruling through the normal appellate process, through the District Court and Colorado Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court.

Swain argued in her initial brief that Amendment 14 is illegal because wildlife management decisions must be made by the executive branch of state government. An argument that Swain put forward subsequently is that Amendment 14 is not constitutional because it doesn’t provide equal protection to all citizens.

The amendment contains an exception which allows a 30-day period during which a rancher may trap predators on his own property to protect his livestock. The same protection is not available to ranchers whose stock is on public lands, which Swain said constitutes unequal protection.

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