Trappers are Trying to Steal Our Public Lands

Montana’s Legislature is in yet another frenzy to destroy Montana’s wildlife. Wolves and grizzly bears are targets of their raid on our natural resources. The Legislature, with few members educated in wildlife biology, is dictating policy not based on science but on cultural division and exploitation. Legislators are also lying to the public.

Hunting and fishing are already protected in our state constitution. But Rep. Paul Fielder, a trapper and wolf hater, has introduced constitutional amendment HB 372, dressed up as rights for hunters and anglers, when it’s a land-grab for trappers. Putting trapping in the Constitution means trappers’ rights will trump the rights of 1.2 million Montanans to use public lands without fear of lethal steel devices everywhere. Instead, public lands will have ever more traps and snares, forever.

Legislators are falling in line to support HB 372, unwittingly taking orders from Howl For Wildlife. Founded by a California outfitter and bear hunter, this is an umbrella organization for the NRA and major trophy hunting organizations based in New York, California and Texas. These groups are using Montana hunters who don’t realize hunting is protected in the Constitution to pressure legislators to vote for HB 372. The bill would make trapping and hunting the primary methods of wildlife management. This makes clear that out-of-state people will control Montana’s public lands and take our wildlife.

Trappers know that the public would not support a constitutional amendment that allows the suffering and torture of wildlife in traps, so HB 372 is named “Establish the Right to Hunt in the Constitution”.

Already less than 1% of our population is putting our public safety at risk, as more and more traps and snares cover the same public lands we enjoy for hiking, hunting, fishing, and cross-country skiing.

But HB 372 is designed to confuse the public. It’s one of 54 constitutional amendment bills that take away rights of citizens and turn back the clock in Montana to the 1880s.

There is no money in trapping, pelt prices are in the basement, and there is no need for trapping anymore. Contrary to what trappers say, there is no value in their “recreation”, and they have done nothing to conserve wildlife. In fact they have caused enormous harm and suffering, and caused species to go extinct and have to be reintroduced.

But trappers are willing to jeopardize public safety to continue their pursuit. The tactic is simply, confuse sportsmen, and allow outside special interests like Don Peay’s Utah-based Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the Safari Club (which seeks to turn the West into a giant elk farm), the NRA and other more radical, fringe sportsmen’s groups to privatize our wildlife and destroy all predators.

Montana does not need any new constitutional amendments and we do not need to be lied to either. That is not the Montana way. Hunting and fishing have for some time been part of our state Constitution. Trapping should never be.

Please speak to your legislators now. Let them know that out-of-state interests have no right to decide anything concerning Montana’s wildlife. It’s time we made clear also, that trappers have no right to steal our public lands.

It is also clear there is no place for trapping in a modern Montana.

Stephen Capra is the Executive Director of Bold Visions Conservation.