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Congratulations to the Montana Trapper Association on a huge victory. I-177 was defeated 63% - 37%. A great job by the MTA and the MWPLA Coalition. This is proof of what we can accomplish when we all come together to work for a common goal. A big thank you to all the trappers and state affiliates for the incredible support and contributions to make this victory possible.
This is a victory for sportsmen across the country. Gone forever are the days when various user groups could oppose one another in a misguided effort to protect their own special interest. Every affiliate should take a lesson from this and start laying the foundation now. As the most vulnerable and targeted group, it’s incumbent upon trappers to be the ones to reach out to our fellow sportsmen to begin the process of forming coalitions within every state. Don’t wait until your state is the one being attacked.
The recent election cycle has presented sportsmen with a unique opportunity. While we don’t yet know who will be overseeing the Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all indications are that the new administration will be sportsman friendly. Couple this with Republican control of Congress and more importantly the obvious mood of the people to affect change. The people are fed up with big government, excessive regulations, political correctness, and being told how to live every aspect of their lives. This political climate provides a rare opportunity to make some long-needed changes which would have long-term and far-reaching benefits for all sportsmen. If we as sportsmen fail to take advantage – shame on us.
The NTA has already begun discussions with groups aimed at developing a list of issues and priorities. At the top of my list is modifying the Endangered Species Act. The ESA was enacted by Congress in 1973 and gave the federal government the responsibility to protect threatened and endangered species and the critical habitat vital to the survival of those species. The ESA has been invaluable in the survival of many endangered species. Unfortunately, what was intended to be a shield to protect threatened and endangered species has been used as a sword by many groups to restrict and eliminate activities they oppose. For these groups, it’s not about the protection of lynx or wolverine or any other species. It’s about stopping trapping, hunting, mining, and timbering, and limiting access to public lands. The animals are nothing more than a means by which they can achieve their end. It’s about advancing their agenda. Period.
The ESA needs to be modified to focus on the species not the individual animals. It’s the Endangered Species Act, not the Endangered Animal Act. The protection efforts should be towards the species population not on a few animals on the fringe of the range which may happen to live or wander across some geo-political boundary. Canada lynx are the perfect illustration of this. Lynx in the contiguous U.S. were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2000 because regulations governing forest management activities on federal lands were deemed inadequate.
Historically the lynx was found from Alaska across Canada and into the northern U.S. They still are. Lynx are relatively common in interior Canada and Alaska. As with all species, lynx are obviously much rarer on the edge of their range. That a state or region can lose trapping because a few individual animals, of an otherwise healthy population are incidentally taken on the wrong side of a political boundary is absurd. Catch a lynx on the northern boundary and you are in violation of the Endangered Species Act, catch that same lynx a few feet to the north across the border and you skin and sell it. These are the abuses and overreach that occur under the current language of the ESA.
The ESA was landmark legislation. It has been of tremendous benefit to numerous species. By modifying it slightly, we can both reduce the potential for abuse, and I believe, enhance its ability to protect and recover imperiled species and their ecosystems, by improving its acceptance and support from countless user groups and industries. This isn’t just a trapping issue. Hunting, livestock, timber and mining industries, and recreational use of public lands are all under attack and have been the victims of the same overreach.
This all takes us back to building coalitions. Networking with other groups and industries even if their specific interest is different than or opposed to ours. The groups who are bringing these ESA lawsuits will not easily give up their swords. It will be a hard fight. To have any chance, we will need every bit of political support we can muster.
Many trapping seasons are winding down. I hope you spent some time on the trapline. Regardless of fur markets, time spent in the field has its own rewards.