Monday, October 17, 2016

Rethinking Trapping And Public Lands

by Eric Uhlfelder

Montana, the fourth largest state in the country, is known for its remarkable natural resources. Glacier National Park is a jewel. Montana’s rivers and streams feed both oceans and three of North America’s major river basins. And the state hosts the greatest diversity of mammalian wildlife.

And this fall, the state is trying to establish itself as a leader in public land management. An initiative on this November’s ballot seeks to significantly restrict trapping on public lands.

If the initiative passes, this is a big deal, not only because Montana has a lot of public lands—one third of the state or 50,000 square miles—and a long trapping tradition, but it will punctuate the growing shift to keeping state public lands safer for everybody.

To date, California, Colorado, Washington, and Arizona have significantly restricted or banned trapping on public lands for just that reason, and because there’s a growing consensus that trapping causes unnecessarily cruel and unusual suffering.

But the ballot initiative is by no means a clear cut issue because many opponents believe it will infringe upon personal liberties, further fuel the expansion of big government, hurt individuals making a living from the skins of trapped animals, and is part of a broader movement seeking to ban hunting.

The Missoulian, the state’s third-largest newspaper, in a recent editorial, concluded “Montana’s public lands are big enough to accommodate everyone, and we should all work together to find a way to share the landscape.” It recommends voting against the initiative.

Voters need to distinguish between facts and fiction in deciding whether restricting trapping for private profit on public lands makes sense.

No comments: