I want to respond to letters written by Connie Poten and Susie Waldron (Feb. 3, 2011). I am a trapper since childhood. I continue the tradition because I believe, along with 30 percent of society, that trapping is an acceptable form of the consumptive use of a natural resource.
Poten and Waldron are part of the 10 percent of society that find trapping unacceptable. Whatever facts or views they are presented with, it will still be unacceptable. By using inflammatory terminology they skew the perception of trapping to coincide with their beliefs. The remaining 60 percent of society is unsure whether trapping has a place in wildlife management.
Trapping methods, technology and equipment has changed dramatically since my childhood. Stringent regulations, trapper education and development of best management practices have evolved to ensure safer, more humane trapping seasons. The practices established and being studied by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies are techniques that ensure proper restraint of target animals without harm, allowing release or dispatching of the animal with a properly placed bullet.
Today’s trappers are taught how to adjust, modify and adapt traps for specific species. Swivels are placed at the base of the traps so it turns freely, jaws are modified and do not close tightly, and the trap pan is adjusted to specific pounds of pressure for target animals.
Trappers are helping to relocate species. Canadian and U.S. trappers used foothold traps to relocate wolves into Yellowstone Park. Foothold traps were used to relocate beaver cutting down cherry trees in Washington D.C. Trappers will relocate 20 swift fox to the Fort Peck Reservation in eastern Montana and are continually relocating problem beaver throughout Montana.
Although I do not agree with the extreme views of Poten or Waldron, they do have the right to express them, even if their assertions are questionable. It is up to the public to research such rhetoric before forming opinions about the management of Montana’s wildlife.
Montana Trapper Education Program
As a Montana resident, I was extremely embarrassed by Anderson Cooper’s recent interview with Rep. Bob Wagner, R-Harrison, on CNN (see “etc.” Feb. 17, 2011). Wagner stated: “We in Montana are going to require anyone running for president to file proof of U.S. birth and citizenship with our state before they can be placed on the ballot.” When Cooper challenged him on how this related to his views of President Obama, Wagner avoided answering the question.
Cooper told Wagner Hawaii had supplied a notarized, stamped and sealed document proving President Obama’s birth. Newspaper announcements were also published at the time of his birth. Wagner dodged the question of whether these serve as proof. When Cooper stated that the documents were accepted by the IRS and the U.S. Passport office as sufficient evidence of someone’s citizenship, Wagner refused to acknowledge it. He continued to say, “We in Montana don’t accept…,” etc.
I resent being included in his “we” and he certainly does not speak for me! How dare he include all Montanans in his statement. I certainly hope my friends and family who live in other states did not see the interview, for they might think I agree with Wagner’s unconstitutional and radical thinking.
Did Christ die on the cross or is he alive?
Apparently, Hamilton’s Harris Himes, a pastor in the California-based Calvary Chapel Church, believes he died. In his testimony before the Montana Senate on Senate Bill 185, Himes said, “If Jesus was alive today, he would support the death penalty.”
How did a longtime pastor in a sect professing faith in the literal truth of the Bible miss the central message of the New Testament? He lives is the good news! Harris’ certainty about where Christ might stand on the death penalty is matched by his ignorance of scripture.
The Story of the Woman Caught in Adultery in John 8:1–11 is only one example. Christ challenges the Pharisees’ decision to stone a woman for adultery by asking, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” This is one of the roots of “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that trespass against us” in the Lord’s Prayer.
Given Harris’s long collaboration with Dallas Erickson, the Bitterroot’s leading crusader for decency through law, this example may be particularly appropriate. Under Talmudic Law, adultery qualifies as a capital crime only if two or more persons witnessed it at the same time. Biblical scholars believe one or more of the Pharisees engaged the services of the woman as prostitute, and two or more of the rest watched. The goal of this plot by the Pharisees was to make Christ vulnerable to arrest and execution by the Romans. Maybe all of the Pharisees did not die either.
Good-natured joking aside, there is always the possibility that the media misquoted Himes or that he simply made a grammatical mistake. If it was grammatical error, someone ought to be checking to see if he has a green card.
Seriously, we welcome a response from Himes.
While we are waiting, we invite you to urge your state representative to vote for SB 185 to abolish the death penalty.
Helen Ann Bibler and Jim Parker
We want to thank Alex Sakariassen for “Grassroots guardians” (see Feb. 3, 2011), his follow-up article to “Guiding the guardians” (see Oct. 1, 2009), and educating the general public on Rep. Betsy Hands and Montanans Supporting Guardian Guidelines’ daunting work to gain support for House Bill 281, a much-needed law to revise statutes for guardians ad litem.
To represent the interests of children whose parents are undergoing a contentious divorce or legal separation is the over-riding goal of a court-appointed guardian ad litem. With this charge, guardians are vested with extraordinary power. As the primary intermediary between the court and children in custody cases, and because they report to and make recommendations directly to the district judge, guardians have significant influence over the district judge’s ruling.
One would think individuals hired to protect children would be required to have earned at least a relevant four-year degree, undergo continuing education and submit to regulatory oversight as do the majority of those who work with and intercede on behalf of vulnerable children. Not so in Montana. No specific qualifications for this position exist other than that one possesses a high school diploma. Continuing education that could enhance guardians’ effectiveness is only voluntary. No specified timeline, as Sakariassen further notes, exists for when a guardian’s “participation in custody proceedings should conclude”—justifiably disturbing since judges typically rule in favor of joint custody, and since one or both parents shoulder the crushing burden of often exorbitant guardian fees charged on top of attorney, mental health and other ancillary fees in cases that sometimes stretch into years. No objective, standardized system of oversight exists to prevent or discourage guardians who may be tempted to misuse their power over children in their care.
While few would object to HB 281’s entirely rational call to institute requirements for relevant educational background in mental health, domestic violence or child development and continuing education for prospective guardians, opponents of the bill have stressed what they view as imposing “another layer of government” that could dissuade people from becoming or staying on as a guardian. In a state with thriving schools of social work and an abundance of college graduates hungry for meaningful life work in a beautiful state, might the specter of vanishing guardians ad litem become moot once professional qualifications, standard guidelines and objective oversight are given structural substance, so those interested in the profession know what to strive toward?
For the sake of families, not only in Missoula but throughout Montana, who struggle with the crippling price of lengthy proceedings and drawn-out anguish due to the absence of needed standards, we support negotiations that enhance clarity, strength and structure to this critical bill. We advocate unequivocally for the passage of HB 281.
Missoula Business and Professional Women’s Association
Well here we are, nearly halfway through the 2011 legislative session, and I am having serious misgivings about how well our representatives are conducting the business of state.
The committees and the floors of both the Montana Senate and the Montana House of Representatives have been deluged with non-essential, single-minded, ideological, politically motivated pieces of legislation. Some of these bills seem to be designed to nullify existing laws that protect our air, water and the general quality of our surroundings in order to enhance the bottom line of greedy corporations. Other bills propose to eliminate critical services and programs that derive their primary funds from the federal government.
The legislators who are sponsoring these bills are being self-centered, and are abdicating their responsibility to work in the interests of the citizens of Montana as a whole. Where are the true statesmen who will work with their fellow legislators to create solutions to the real economic challenges facing our state? And who will craft legislation that will make a positive difference to the job situation that currently exists in Montana? I didn’t vote for any of the legislators from the Flathead, but my expectations for them are the same as those of the voters who did send them to Helena. We all trust them to make decisions in our best interests. We do not benefit from wasted time and money.
Let’s all hope that the remaining days of the 2011 session will bring about some meaningful, non-partisan, intelligent action that benefits everyone.
Thank you for covering the Montana Association of Realtors’ (MAR) attempt to handicap cities, counties and towns from planning their future (see “Plowed Under,” Feb. 3, 2011). If passed, Senate Bill 209 would prevent local governments from requiring developers to minimize or mitigate the loss of agricultural land—the foundation of our farming and ranching heritage. The bill would also disqualify all evidence other than expert opinion presented in formal written studies, among other blatant attempts to put one individual’s rights above everyone else’s.
The bill sponsor, Sen. Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, was so appalled at the MAR’s assault on community planning that he pulled the bill before its public hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee. Unfortunately, Rep. John Esp, R-Big Timber, recently introduced a similar bill, House Bill 542, written by MAR, which will erode a local community’s ability to plan for a legacy of working farms and ranches.
While MAR lobbies for their “policy solution” to accelerate unplanned development across working farm and ranchlands, the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) is working hard for a comprehensive and predictable approach to protecting Missoula County’s agricultural heritage. We introduced a draft policy for working farms and ranches with the support of 1,355 Missoula County residents and 33 organizations with a stake in development and agriculture.
The difference between the two approaches is startling. CFAC believes local governments—like Missoula County—can work with local people to honor individual property rights as well as the community’s farming and ranching legacy. MAR believes a landowner has the right to benefit at the expense of current and future residents, and there is no role for local government to play in balancing individual and community rights so that we all have a chance to prosper and thrive.
It’s time for our elected representatives at the state and local levels to take notice of this assault on our rights and our legacy. Please lead public participation towards a place of common ground.
Community Food and Agriculture Coalition
Your paper is pathetic. You print silly, meaningless letters and you can’t handle those with the hard truth. I’m sure you get your news elsewhere.
Mr. Bryant attacks conservation groups for continuing to press for a better deal for wolves (see “Moving target,” Feb. 3). If he were the wildlife supporter he claims to be, he might want a better deal too—one that’s based on science. Currently, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are committed to maintaining just 100 to 150 wolves per state—outdated, unscientific numbers identified in 1987. There is no evidence to suggest those numbers make up a healthy, recovered wolf population.
It would be nice to believe that states would never reduce wolf populations from more than 1,500 wolves in the region to fewer than 500. But Idaho, when asked to stand behind its voluntary plan to maintain at least 500 wolves, immediately withdrew that plan in favor of an earlier one calling for around 100-150 wolves. Meanwhile, Wyoming has been crystal clear it will maintain only the minimum number of wolves and will eliminate them from nearly 90 percent of the state. So far, Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s administration has stuck with its plan to maintain higher wolf numbers statewide but the current Legislature may overrule that plan and the next governor will not be bound by it.
Leaving wildlife populations at the mercy of politics is not a gamble we should take with any species. All wildlife is supposed to be managed according to the best available science. Wolves deserve no less than any other species. That’s why conservation groups continue to work for a science-based plan for returning wolves to state management—one that ensures a healthy population over the long run.
If we abandon core wildlife management principles like science and sustainable populations for wolves, will we also abandon them for other species? That’s the most important question every wildlife supporter should be asking.
Defenders of Wildlife
Much has been written in the Missoula area about the pros and cons of trapping. Connie Poten’s Feb. 3 letter to the editor (see “Trapping indefensible”) against trapping merits a response from a wildlife professional. I have two degrees in wildlife biology, worked 31 years as a wildlife biologist, published a dozen papers in wildlife journals, and started trapping almost 50 years ago. I feel qualified to discuss trapping.
The Wildlife Society supports regulated trapping as an effective method of managing or studying furbearers, and recognizes the economic and recreational benefits of trapping and that it’s an important component of the lifestyle of many people.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) has a position statement supporting trapping, pointing out that it’s regulated by state laws and supported by wildlife managers nationwide. The agency believes trapping is biologically sustainable and provides wildlife management information, and it’s taken measures to minimize incidental captures.
This viewpoint is based on science, biology and natural resource management principles. The same principals are used to manage forests, rangelands, fish and wildlife. Natural resource management based on emotions is bad and expensive.
Animal rights groups say that for every target animal trapped, two other animals are killed. That statement was made by former predator control agent Dick Randall in 1976. (He later became a consultant for the Humane Society.) Randall’s tenure coincided with a time when predator control agents often used large, exposed baits (such as dead livestock) that were laced with poison and surrounded with many traps. That method did kill a lot of unintended wildlife. But there have been laws against that practice in place for a long time. To continue using Randall’s statement about his activities long ago is misleading in today’s world. Some hunters used to drive buffalo herds over cliffs, but that is not practiced today either.
In any group, there are people who act unethically, unlawfully and obnoxiously. But it is unfair to brand all trappers based on the actions of a few. There are bad drivers, bad hunters, bad athletes, bad lawyers, bad politicians and bad trappers. If you don’t like something, don’t do it. Don’t try to make a law against someone else’s activity because you don’t like it. If you don’t like fishing, don’t fish. If you don’t like football, don’t watch football. And if you don’t like trapping, don’t trap. But let other people do what people have been doing in Montana for over 200 years.
Paul C. Fielder
In “Feeling the Squeeze” (Jan. 27, 2011), trapper David Cronenwett bemoans the lack of “an ethical trapping movement.” Well, that’s because there’s no ethical virtue to recreational and commercial trapping. Torturing, clubbing and stomping innocent animals to death is indefensible. Causing panicked animals to chew off their feet (the norm), or spin until their entire limbs break off and then chew through skin, bone, veins, tissue and muscle to escape to certain death (so common trappers call it a wring-off) is not defensible. Snaring animals and leaving them for days until their heads fill with liquid is not defensible. This last example trappers call a “jellyhead,” like the mountain lion found in the Bitterroot still alive and strangling in agony after five days in a snare, head big as a balloon, with her dead kits at her feet.
Trappers today say anything to obscure the real horror. They “explain” that they are “recycling” when they trap small animals to use as bait for larger ones. And the carcasses they discard like pop bottles are now offerings for “the animal kingdom.” Huh?
Animals aren’t trash to be recycled or thrown away. They are living, sentient creatures who suffer a terrifying, slow death for the pleasure of trappers. For every target animal trapped an average of two are discarded. That means 150,000 animals suffer and die this way every year in Montana. This also means that six species are losing their battle for survival: the fisher, pine marten, otter, lynx, wolverine and swift fox. Currently the tiny, six-pound swift fox is being reintroduced—at great taxpayer expense—for the second time while trapping continues. This is not recycling. It’s the wholesale, silent slaughter of our wildlife in the most inhumane way conceivable.
Trappers claim they work harder than hunters, and hunters occasionally take bad shots that cause suffering. So what’s the difference? The difference is that with trapping suffering is the rule, not the exception. Hunters track game over long hours and rugged terrain and have our target squarely in our sights when we shoot. We don’t rig a trip-wire rifle over bait and go home. We don’t come back when convenient to see what kind of creature we caught. Trapping is like Christmas, say trappers. They never know what they’ll find.
Then there’s the old chestnut that some trapped animals just “kind of lay around until you come up” to stomp on their chests and club them to death. The reality is these animals are in a severe state of shock.
Trappers could come to the rescue. Yes, trappers could use their talent and skill to live-trap beaver families where people don’t want them and release them by high mountain streams where they’ll build up water retention and restore wetland ecology and wildlife habitat. Beaver dams are nurseries for all kinds of wildlife from birds to big game. Trappers can make a grand contribution to restoring the rich diversity of the Northern Rockies of the early 19th century, before the wholesale trapping of beaver drained aquifers, turned the land semi-arid and trapped beavers to extinction. By 1841 the land was silent, many species trapped out of existence. Beavers were gone. In the 1850s they had to be reintroduced in Montana.
I have great respect for the survival skills, including trapping, honed by people in earlier times. Today, trappers admit they are lucky to break even. There is no longer a need to trap on public lands. It’s just animal cruelty.
Let’s consign this torture to history.