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First, a big THANK YOU to the Illinois Trappers Association and all the volunteers for hosting the national convention. Unless you have volunteered for one of these events it’s impossible to understand what it takes to host a national convention. The convention was a success despite some wet weather and slightly lower attendance. The facilities were excellent and the demo area was outstanding.
The executive council and office staff continue to operate on a very conservative budget. The depressed fur market is influencing the entire industry, and this fact is reflected in the donations from affiliates and suppliers. We have tried to develop a budget that recognizes this reality while still allowing us to conduct the critical business of the NTA. There is no new spending in the proposed budget, and we are continuing to direct every dollar possible towards the legal defense fund. As per Executive Council policy, we again deposited 50% of our 2016 net income into the legal defense fund. Overall, despite the depressed fur markets and trapper activity, fundraisers continue to do well and membership numbers remain steady.
We continue to reach out to other sportsman’s groups and organizations. In February Trent and Tamara Masterson again represented the NTA at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Annual Convention, and we have again reserved a booth for next year. Plans are being made to attend the 2018 National Pheasant Fest in South Dakota. We work closely with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and Fur Industries of North America. The board meeting agenda was two full days of substance. Representatives from both the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and Sportsman’s Alliance spoke to the board. In addition Tom Krause reviewed the history of the ISO/Trap Standards.
Last year the membership approved a bylaw change that removed the requirement to have an election if the elections were uncontested. Instead the candidates are now elected by acclimation. This change caused some confusion among the membership as there were no sample ballots in the magazine as in the past. To prevent this from occurring again the Board of Directors passed a motion to amend the nominating procedure. In the future, in the case of an uncontested election, there will be a short biography and photograph of the candidate published in the official NTA publication.
This election cycle, both myself and Dave Shuttleworth ran uncontested for the office of President and General Organizer. In accordance with the bylaw change last year we were both re-elected to our offices by acclimation at the general membership meeting on Saturday evening.
Tamara Masterson resigned her position as Convention Coordinator. She will continue to work until December 31, 2017. Very few individuals realize the tremendous time, effort and sacrifice required to make the national and regional conventions happen. Tamara has done an incredible job working with the officers, affiliates, convention bureaus, fairgrounds, host hotels, and all the other entities to make it all come together. The NTA is a better organization because of Tamara’s efforts. I thank her for that.
Over the past year, the challenges have been many, both at the national and state level. Trappers won a huge victory in Montana, by defeating ballot initiative I-177 which, if passed, would have removed trapping from all public lands in Montana. Trappers and state affiliates from across the country donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable Montana to win this fight. Elsewhere, numerous states faced serious anti-trapping legislation this past year in Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, and others. We continue to assist our affiliates with these issues whenever requested.
Currently the NTA is an active party as an intervener in seven federal cases in Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, and Maine. While the pace at which things proceed through the federal courts is often frustrating, things are indeed progressing. The plaintiffs in the Maine Incidental Take Permit (ITP) suit have withdrawn their appeal, and in Montana, all parties have completed their briefs for our appeal of the lynx settlement. We are currently awaiting the court’s ruling.
On July 13, 2017 the Center for Biological Diversity filed a Complaint in Federal District Court in Montana. This is a new case. The claims are essentially the same as the case filed by Wildearth Guardians, which is the case that both MTA and NTA have already intervened. The effort in these cases is to stop the CITIES tagging of wolf, otter, bobcat, and lynx, in addition to brown bear, so the animal or parts thereof, including fur, cannot be exported. The NTA will seek to have the new case filed by Center for Biological Diversity consolidated with the case already proceeding from Wildearth Guardians.
These federal lawsuits over the incidental taking of lynx, the Maine ITP and the CITES/NEPA suits filed in Montana, are clearly the biggest threat trapping has ever faced. They are also extremely expensive to fight, but the sole mission and focus of the NTA is to protect and defend traps and trapping. I have been absolute that we must be involved in these lawsuits to ensure that trapper’s interest and concerns are properly represented and protected. There is no other group willing or able to do it.
On August 1, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its ruling on the wolf delisting. The opinion affirms the District Court Order vacating the 2011 Rule delisting the Great Lake DPS in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. For now, once again, the wolf in Minnesota will remain listed as threatened, and in Wisconsin and Michigan, the wolf will remain listed as endangered.
Today the ESA lawsuits are in the front battle lines to save trapping, but 25 years ago it was the European Union and an effort through international standards (ISO) to stop trapping as we know it with world standards for traps and market blockades to force compliance. You may recall NTA was (and is) deeply involved in this effort, which culminated in 1999 with no world standards for traps but two ISO standards for the world community to properly test and develop the best performing killing and restraining traps. Those two standards were approved by more than 100 countries of the world, including the United States.
Because those world standards have the support of the world community, they are cited in our international trade agreements for wild furs and in large part caused our Congress to fund the national program, Best Management Practices, to discover and promote the traps needed in America.
Without our knowledge, a comedy of errors occurred last October when the nations involved in developing these two standards were polled by Geneva based ISO to learn if the two standards are still in use and needed, or not. Errors occurred not only in the United States but many other countries because the individual national standards boards have simply lost contact with their experts over the years. The result was only Norway and Germany voted to retain the standards! The message did not reach the U.S. technical experts until after the vote closed December 10, with a memo from a colleague in Canada on January 3!
The NTA immediately investigated and discovered rejected ISO standards have a 90 day grace period, with the caveat if five nations can be found still using the standards, the standards will not be removed. The NTA in its role as Administrator to our national standards board immediately began contacting the researchers in various countries and within two weeks the national standards boards in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Finland (along with Germany and Norway) gave us more than enough nations to reinstate the standards, which were done immediately afterward.
NTA had the ability to do this because as the Administrator to our national standards board, we had standing and authority. They failed to notify us due to a procedural error, but were most helpful to assist NTA with information and contacts for other national standards boards so we could get the job done, not only here, but in other countries as well.
Make no mistake. The quickest way to stop fur trapping as we know it is to block our furs from international trade. The two ISO trap testing standards enable us to protect our all-important free trade agreements, and fur trapping in America as we know it.
It is business as usual in a large part because NTA has remained committed these past 25 years to doing whatever it takes to save trapping at the local, national and international levels.
You have a right to be proud and maybe you should tell another trapper who is not a NTA member.