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.