A new initiative, I-169, by Trap Free Montana Public Lands, has been approved by the Attorney General’s office for signature gathering. If I-169 qualifies with 24,175 signatures, Montanans can vote in November’s general election to achieve trap free public lands, which comprise about 35 percent of Montana land.
“Many Montanans want trap free public lands for their safe use, for their companion animals, for treatment of wildlife consistent with the principles of ethical hunting, to restore beaver ponds increasing riparian habitat, trout habitat, big game browse and natural fire breaks, to increase the wildlife and rare species we value and which many people come to see adding a further sustaining boast to our economy,” says KC York, chairman of Trap Free Montana Public Lands.
“I-169 only affects trapping and only on public lands,” says York. “According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, nearly 65% of the state is held in private ownership. The rights of the private land owner, as well as hunting and fishing rights, remain protected. There are exceptions for trapping on public land for public health and safety, scientific research, migratory bird propagation, falconry, relocation, medical treatment or if the nuisance and conflict animal problem has not been or cannot be abated by reasonable nonlethal methods. Rodents, other than beaver and muskrat, can continue to be trapped. Our initiative is fair, reasonable and good for Montana.”
Rancher Steve Clevidence, endorsing the initiative, says, “I happen to be a member of a seven generation Montana ranching family. I extend my endorsement to Trap Free Montana Public Land’s initiative, as I and my family feel that even though trapping may have once been part of our state’s history, it does not need to be a part of Montana’s future. Our public lands are just that, public lands and therefore every citizen has as much right to use those lands in relative safety without fear of traps and snares strewn across the landscape waiting for unsuspecting victims. Trapping needs to be recognized as cruel and unethical treatment of animals and should be abolished on our Montana public lands.”
A similar initiative campaign in 2009/2010 came within 1,500 signatures of qualifying for the ballot. “Four years have past and Montanans have grown increasingly aware of the indiscriminate cruelty of trapping,” says York. “Based on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks furbearer average harvest reports, a minimum of 180,000 animals have been killed by traps. In addition, an increasing number of companion animals are getting trapped on public lands. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks stated the 50 plus dogs that were reported trapped last year is not unusual. Two of the dogs were killed.”
Trap Free Montana Public Lands is a grassroots organization of Montana’s citizens. The group is relying on Montanans to collect signatures and asks that people visit the website to get petitions and for ways to help: http://www.trapfreemt.org and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.comtrapfreemt.org.
“There are many reasons to support this ballot initiative, you only need one!” says York.