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I begin this report on a sad note. The trapping fraternity recently lost a great trapper and tremendous supporter. On January 27, Gene Purdy, of Fontanelle, Iowa, lost his battle with cancer. Gene was an integral part of both the NTA and FTA for decades. He served on the FTA Board of Governors and ran the demo area at the NTA conventions for over 20 years. Gene was always glad to help with any activity and was a friend to everyone. He was a great trapper and even better man. He will be missed.
Oregon trappers are once again under attack. Over the years, the Humane Society of the United States and other groups have tried every avenue available to them to dismantle trapping for both furbearer management and animal damage control in Oregon. Ballot measures in 1980 and 2000 were the first two big attempts. A proposed ballot measure in 2014 from which they withdrew and restrictive rules through the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission are examples of attempts to regulate trappers out of business through impossible regulations. If passed, SB-6 will further limit trappers with restrictions and reporting regulations that are impossible to maintain in the field. Oregon trappers are well organized and have an excellent coalition to fight this proposal.
Montana sportsmen hope to prevent future ballot initiatives like I-177, by amending the state constitution. Senator Fielder’s legislation, if approved by two-thirds of the entire legislature, would put before the people of Montana a constitutional initiative to amend the Montana Constitution to establish the right to hunt, fish and trap wildlife.
The various lawsuits revolving around the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the incidental taking of lynx continue to move along. As a brief review/update on the current status of each:
In Idaho, Motions for Summary Judgment were brought and heard by the court on October 27, 2015. The court issued its decision on January 8, 2016. The court found that plaintiffs are entitled to injunctive relief in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions to protect the lynx from future incidental takes. The court ordered the state to propose a plan to protect the lynx in those two regions, and urged the parties to work together on drafting the plan. The court denied any injunctive relief in the other five regions of the state. A motion for reconsideration was brought by the state based on new evidence. The motion was denied by the court on September 24, 2016, but allowed plaintiffs to conduct discovery concerning the new evidence. The denial of the motion for reconsideration was without prejudice to the right of the state to refile the motion after completion of the discovery.
The deposition of Bridget Fahey, Division Chief for Conservation and Classifications, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, was held on December 20, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
In Montana, as a result of the February 4, 2015, settlement conference, plaintiffs and state defendants agreed and entered into a settlement agreement. Defendant intervenors (NTA and MTA) took no part or had any input in the agreement. Defendant intervenors filed a motion with the district court objecting to the settlement agreement and requesting that the summary judgment motions be heard prior to disposing of the litigation through a settlement that was not entered into by all parties of the case. The district court ultimately approved the settlement agreement and denied our motions objecting to the settlement. We have appealed the case to the 9th Circuit on October 21, 2015. All parties have filed their respective briefs with the Court and are awaiting the 9th Circuit Court to schedule oral argument.
In Maine, where the Friends of Animals and Center for Biological Diversity seek to have the court vacate the Incidental Take Permit, all parties have submitted to the court for summary judgment. A hearing on the motions was held on November 3, 2016, in Bangor, Maine, and we now await the court’s decision.
And finally, there’s the CITES tagging case, also filed in Montana. On December 9, 2016, the plaintiff, federal defendants and intervening defendants (NTA) entered into a Joint Stipulation and Motion to Stay the proceedings pending the completion of analysis of the environmental impacts of the CITES export program for Appendix II species under the National Environmental Policy Act. The court issued an order granting the stay with instructions that the federal defendants shall provide notice to all parties when the draft analysis is available and that on or before March 31, 2017, federal defendants shall make available for public view and comment the draft analysis under the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act).
Sportsmen, conservationists and Republicans have sponsored numerous measures to reform the Endangered Species Act over the past eight years. All of them were blocked by the Democrats and the Obama administration. Some long-time critics of the law now hold key leadership positions in both the House and Senate, and I am confident we will be hearing a lot more about efforts to modify the ESA in the coming months. With minor changes to the language of the ESA, every one of the lynx lawsuits we have fought would have been prevented, as well as most all foreseeable trapping related lawsuits in the future.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is again soliciting public comments on the potential listing of the Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) fisher. In 2011 the service determined listing was not warranted. If the NRM fisher is listed, we will no doubt face more lawsuits in the future over incidental catches. That’s the game – get a species on the fringe of its range, or a distinct population segment listed and then use it to restrict trapping and other activities they oppose.
This must change.