Governor Gianforte’s War on Wildlife

Photograph Source: USDA Rural Development – Public Domain

In Montana, we are facing a cold and cruel winter. Our Governor Greg Gianforte has only been in office two years, but the path of blood for wildlife he has created has left many in our state sickened and outraged, for he is a trapper and a trophy hunter.

In Montana, less than 1% of the people in the state actually trap wildlife. There is no money to be made, fur prices are at all-time lows and it is a barbaric practice. But our Governor sees trapping as something to preserve and fight for, despite the fact that every year people are injured and family pets are killed, not to mention the 150,000 innocent animals that are caught in traps, which like land mines, dominate our public lands, without signs or warnings.

But it goes far beyond trapping; our Governor has made a war on wolves’ part of his personal mission. Wolves are being slaughtered in Montana, with traps, guns and arrows. Bait is being placed on the border of Yellowstone to draw wolves out of the park to their death.

In the short time of his reign, our Governor has worked to demolish the moral and the structure of our state’s once proud, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the agency that manages wildlife. Long time employees have been fired or retired, the agency uses a method to count wolves that many wildlife biologists have made clear is flawed. Wolves bring more than $80 million dollars in revenue to our state; trapping licenses cost $28 bucks and allow unlimited suffering for wildlife.

Montana’s legislature is preparing for a new session in January, bills are slowly being developed. Plans call for aerial gunning of wolves, coyotes and foxes, designating wolves’ varmint, so they can be killed year round, hound hunting of wolves, more night shooting, expanded trapping and making trapping part of our state constitution. Our emboldened Republican majority, which enjoys a supermajority, will continue efforts to destroy the wildness in our state.

The Governor has also alienated sportsmen by pushing to privatize wildlife in the state. He continues to reward landowners and ranchers by allowing them to push elk off our public lands onto their ranches where they charge top dollar to hunters. He has handpicked a Game Commission, which supports trapping, privatizing wildlife and the slaughter of predator species. A United Property Owners lawsuit aims to make wildlife, now owned by all Montanan’s, their private herds, with no reporting or license necessary. He and the legislature continue to push false narratives claiming wolves are wiping out deer and elk. Today, Montana has more deer and elk than they have had in more than a generation and wolves are helping to stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, while making the herds healthier.

On February 15, 2021, on a former Sinclair executive’s ranch just north of Yellowstone border, Gianforte killed Max the wolf, a male wolf that left the park borders in search of a mate. Max was caught in a trap, on the ranch and held in pain possibly for days until the Governor could come and shoot it, illegally. But undaunted, the Governor followed up months later by killing a collared mountain lion just outside the parks border. The park lost valuable research on the lion and his actions have encouraged others to hunt on the parks border.

His next target is grizzly bears. The pressure is on to delist this magical creature for a trophy hunting season and allow ranchers to kill more bears, as they work to allow the state to manage them, much like the wolf, which has been an unmitigated disaster.

Montana remains a vital biological reservoir for wildlife. In a time where species world-wide are losing ground or barely holding on, Montana is doing all it can to destroy and cause great harm to so many critical, stunning and sentient species.

Leading the charge is our Governor, a man who once body slammed a reporter, who now is body slamming our most important wildlife. Wolves belong in Montana and across the West; grizzly bears remain the soul of our rugged landscape. The time has come to end the senselessness of trapping of any species and for our Governor to stop his bullying of agencies and those who oppose his destructive polices.

He continues to ignore the will of the people of Montana, to satisfy a small group dedicated to harming species that are simply, beautifully-wild.

The time has come for our Governor to stop his senseless war on wildlife and the shame he brings to our state. He must learn the importance of co-existence, before his actions become irreversible.