Reimagining Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
We have an agency charged with “managing wildlife” in Montana. It works off the tired North America Model of Wildlife Conservation, one that is outdated and lacking in current scientific understanding. Rather than managing people, the agency obsesses with controlling wildlife. Their true mission is not management, but to follow the orders of the livestock industry that controls not only the state legislature but most wildlife agencies across the West.
But what if we could reimagine a new and different Fish, Wildlife and Parks? If you could start over with the wisdom of our experience, with the science unbiased and relevant and with the input of not just sportsmen and the livestock industry, but the voices of all of us that love and wonder at wildlife.
It would start with the concept of managing people not wildlife. By this I mean, rather than shoulder seasons and destructive predator management and killing, we would demand, not ask, the livestock industry to co-exist with all wildlife. Thus we would be managing their actions, not those of the coyote or wolf. The agency would work to make landscapes and waterways protected while working with property owners to enhance habitat for all species.
The agency would demand the ending of trapping on all state and public lands. There could be no justifiable rationale to allow this torture of wildlife to continue and the penalties would be severe for any that decide to ignore the regulations, once again managing people, not wildlife. They would also be voices that speak for wildlife, not conduits for destructive practices and cultural prejudices that focus hate on predator species.
No one would end the right for sportsmen to hunt and they would remain part of any commission. Ending trapping will not end hunting and a healthy commission and department would make hunters understand this and enhance their long and important alliance with those other conservation groups that share supporting wildlife.
The agency would be governed by a commission that represents all people. This means appointing people that demand modern conservation principles, perhaps who make a living from wildlife viewing or understand this is the largest constituency for wildlife nationally. This commission would understand that predator species are vital to a healthy and thriving wildlife population. These predators are our first line of defense from species acquiring chronic wasting disease or dealing with the influx of feral pigs on our northern border.
Real science would matter. It would be the focus of the agency, but rather than controlling everything, we would use science to educate the public, to enhance habitat and waterways for wildlife, not just for the purpose of killing species. Being able to speak about family units and the suffering a species can and does feel, is not something to hide, but through education change societal thinking.
This agency, which has long been the public voice for the livestock industry, would morph into one that forces change in this Pleistocene operation. Cattle would not have the dominant voice on public lands and would face new restrictions. The killing of predators would end and the industry would either adapt or like any business be finished. No industry is given more government handouts than livestock and their continued power to control our public lands and wildlife denies all Americans their rightful ability to view wildlife on public lands.
Such changes would allow wildlife to thrive in our state. With more wildlife, tourism and spending to view wildlife would grow exponentially. Our personal experiences with wildlife would shift from momentary glances to real interactions. Our relationship with wolves and other predators would evolve and the land and waterways would be far healthier, not denizens of death. We would understand what it means to co-exist.
If we or anyone believes in the idea of legacy, then our legacy should be about changing this agency that was born not to help wildlife, but to enhance opportunities for sportsmen. Demanding it evolve into an agency that makes wildlife the priority. That ends the horrid practice of trapping and reflects the diversity, not just of species, but of people that understand that wildlife is what makes life on this planet so very special.
If I could dream of a new agency these are but a few of the things I would start with. As for the one we have, it is our mission and your voice that will force the changes necessary for progress and to ensure the life of species that deserve simply a chance to survive.
Wildlife does not need management, but people do. Be a voice for change!
Never Cry Wolf
We stand here today to express our love to an animal; one we call-wolf. Wolves are not just magnificent; they are in life the symbol of beauty and grace. They are a family, a pack, a group that moves as one and makes the land their territory.
We also live in a time where ignorance, cultural hates and the loathing from rural communities is being aspired to an animal they see as a symbol of all that is wrong in our country. Wolves are the multicultural, Black lives Matters, Gay, transgender child or friend, in other words, they stretch the tolerance of those that want a life devoid of personal growth and understanding, but choose to live on the land, not co-exist. Wolves challenge their norms, but like much of American today; wolves in Montana are being met with hate, intolerance, and death at the hands of those who live to kill.
It is also a time when groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have gone from responsible wildlife supporters and approaches to one that has devolved into a group that demands the killing of wolves and other predators. Funding shadow groups that push state agencies to kill wolves and in the funding for paid bounties ($1000 each, Foundation for Wildlife Management) on wolves in Idaho.
So the reality we face is we have work to do and a strong need for vocal voices and boots on the ground for the critical battles ahead, which begin on February 13th in Helena. There the commission will begin the process of trying to follow the lead of the Idaho Game Commission in expanding the ability of trappers to double (triple in Idaho) their take of wolves and expand the wolf hunting season so more wolves can be slaughtered. If they get their way expect a push to remove wolves from parts of our state entirely as Idaho is pursuing.
This is not a time for silence; rather it is time to raise HOLY HELL with a Commission that seems determined to promote the destruction of wolves in Montana. This livestock industry, trapper inspired effort, needs to be crushed by the outpouring of support for wolves and a need for people to overwhelm this commission with calls, emails, and letters.
Once again we must remind ourselves of one basic question: who’s wildlife is this? Does it simply belong to trappers; is the endless control of wildlife acceptable? Is it warranted? The answer seems to be- the will of livestock interests, trumps sanity. Where is our will being represented? Where are our voices? Do we, as the clear majority, in this state not have the right to view living, breathing wildlife?
Why are trappers allowed to kill more than 200,000 animals every year? Since when is suffering part of our constitution? Why does the commission not have a single true conservationist on it?
Part of the answer is because many of us being well-meaning, believe that Fish, Wildlife and Parks is doing a good job. Many do not question that premise. The other part is simple raw political muscle being flexed by those that directly profit from the land, they are dictating policy. It’s time for sobriety.
Time and time again this agency yields to poor science, no science or political winds. They do the bidding of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and bend over backward for trapping and livestock interests. They do this because so few of us show up or demand more. February 13th is the day we can begin to right the carnage wrought by trappers, livestock interests and this agency. It is the day we can speak in one, very loud voice for wolves. They deserve our voice, our heart. They deserve our rage at a Commission that shows no courage.
Wolves are what keep the balance in nature. They are what stops chronic wasting disease, they are what keeps our elk and deer healthy and moving. They are the spirit of the land. They are what gets our heart pumping and allow us to witness true wildness. Their return was a turning point in our relationship to the wild nature and we cannot let that day, that victory, be in vain.
We must fight like never before, for those that want wolves to die are winning. We must be the blockade in the road, the voice that speaks for them and rallies our community, our state and our people to demand justice and the end of this killing spree.
We are not here to cry wolf, we are here to stand with wolves!
— Be a voice for change; join us on February 13th in Helena!
— Tell the Commission no to expanded killing, period.
—Justice begins on that day.
CALL TO ACTION!
We need everyone--an army--to protest planned wolf slaughter!
Montana’s FWP Commission meeting Feb. 13 (agenda attached) will consider extreme expansion of wolf trapping and hunting.
In Region 1, NW Montana
1. NW Montana, double number of wolves allowed to be killed from five to 10 per person;
2. Extend wolf trapping season close date to March 15 from Feb. 28.
3. Extend general hunting season to begin Aug. 15 and end March 31. This makes a 7.5 month-long season wolf hunt annually. What is the rationale for this? There isn’t one given. The wolf population is already suppressed to the edge of –or beyond—the endangered list. We cannot rely on FWP for accurate numbers. The agency’s agenda is to wipe them out in Region 1.
Proposal will not reduce number of wolves (two) that can be killed in Units 313 and 316 on northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. This absurd quota legalizes the trapping and killing of Yellowstone wolves if they step over the boundary. Wolf killers line up to get their trophies; there is no penalty for going over the quota.
It is imperative that a multitude of people show up at the FWP Commission meeting to voice their objection to this indefensible slaughter of wolves. In Region 1, the hard winter of 2018-19 reduced the elk population according FWP’s own biologists. Yet wolf haters there demand getting rid of wolves, and the agency is doing their bidding.
You can attend in Helena or at the regional FWP headquarters where the meeting is live, by satellite TV, and make comments from there. FWP uses the excuse that more trappers show up than opponents to trapping so they go with the majority. It’s time we change this!
We expect this agenda items to be considered sometime after 2 pm.
Here is what we need you to do:
1) Please attend the next Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Feb. 13 in FWP Helena office at or any Regional FWP office. It's live, so you can comment via satellite TV directly to the Commissioners in Helena. The agenda shows that the wolf slaughter will likely to be discussed after 1 pm but be aware that FWP can easily change the timing
2) Please also write the commissioners to condemn these disastrous plans. firstname.lastname@example.org
Talking points (please use your own words)
FWP Commissioners, I am asking you to reduce the number of wolves allowed to be killed in Units 313 and 316 two one or zero, to NOT accept the proposal to extend the wolf hunting and trapping seasons in Region 1, and to NOT increase the bag limit to 10 wolves. Instead, please consider the following:
Montana needs to recognize and value the importance of wolves for healthy ecosystems, in particular under the threat of climate change where healthy ecosystems are our best defense. Wolves should not be managed based on politics, but according to the best available science and with compassion.
Wolves contain Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Dr. Valerius Geist, has stated that “Wolves will certainly bring the disease to a halt … They will remove infected individuals and clean up carcasses that could transmit the disease.” He along with other biologists even theorized that killing off wolves “allowed for CWD to take hold in the first place.”
FWP caters to wildlife killers and not to the general public, who increasingly opposes killing wild animals for ‘recreation.’ Wolves should not be managed for those who enjoy killing them but rather for the majority of the public who wants to see them alive.
· Indiscriminate slaughter of wolves disrupts their social systems and may contribute to greater human conflicts when killing of key family members leads to a reduced effectiveness of the wolf family for hunting or cause them to lose their territory.
Killing wolves for recreation and trophies is appalling human behavior.
Trapping of any animal, whether wolves or members of other species is barbaric, cruel and there is no justification this type of torture of wild animals.
FWP’s Regional Offices:
Helena Headquarters 1420 East Sixth Avenue, Helena, MT
Region 1: 490 North Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901, Phone: (406) 752-5501
Region 2: 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula, MT 59804, Phone: (406) 542-5500
Region 3: 1400 South 19th, Bozeman, MT 59718, Phone: (406) 577-7900
Region 4: 4600 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, MT 59405, Phone: (406) 454-5840
Region 5: 2300 Lake Elmo Drive, Billings, MT 59105, Phone: (406) 247-2940
Region 6: 1 Airport Rd, Glasgow, MT 59230, Phone: (406) 228-3700
Region 7: 352 I-94 Business Loop, Miles City, MT 59301, Phone: (406) 234-0900
THANK YOU for supporting wolves in Montana. We need to take FWP back!
When I first moved to Montana, almost a year ago to the day, someone suggested I take my dogs to Harpers Bridge to let them run and enjoy the river. Little did I know I would spend most of this past year going down to this location almost every day? Seeing a place, a wild, but small piece of land bordered by the Clark Fork River is to understand its moods, its beauty. It is a place to watch ducks, to have bald eagles fly by or roost in a nearby tree. Yet, in that time what I have not seen is an otter or a beaver. There have been deer, wild turkey, and tracks of possum and skunk, but no beaver.
About two months ago when I pulled in to a parking space I noticed something different. The trees by the river were felled; there were great piles of debris, limbs cut neatly, and the bank showing the effects of the mighty work underway. Soon in the nearby inlet, I saw what all this work was about, it was the new home of the river cruiser, a beaver. Every day, I have gone back to watch this home take form. The cutting is finished as is the lodge, it is strong, it has many entrances and exits, but the beaver has not shown its face. It has been exciting and wondrous to see this unfold and I have brought friends to join in the excitement.
But like so much of Montana, I noticed a few weeks ago new visitors to Harpers Bridge, trucks showing up, with men inside, avoiding my glance and waiting for me to leave before exiting their vehicles. Last week I called Fish, Wildlife and Parks to ask about the threat of traps at Harpers Bridge. Several days later I received a call, the spokesperson asked if I spent much time there. I said I did, he said: “then you know the beaver has cut down some trees”. Yes, I said, but the result has been great! He said dryly, “that’s why its likely trappers have set up downstream, they want the beaver”.
How is it that people can see an event with such different sets of eyes? The magic of nature in my eyes is the chance to kill a creature in others. This place of special meaning to me is now filled with a sense of grief. When I look at that lodge, I want to scream out, be careful, do not go too far downstream. Let me help you!
The beaver, however, fears me as much as it does all people. Their moves come at night, fear and instinct have driven them away from view. For me now the concern beyond the beaver goes to my dogs, understanding that conibear traps have been laid out, stealing from me the peace and beauty the river has afforded, so that a few sick individuals can find pleasure in destroying the wild spirit that the river offers.
Recently, I spent time with a friend in Bozeman; he said to me “these are my animals too”. His reference to the idea that only trappers have the only voice in wildlife matters and the reality that Fish, Wildlife and Parks concedes to their every wish.
The reality remains, we are the majority, our voice can only be heard when we speak in unison. We must be loud, present and make the case- it is our wildlife too! We want ours alive, we want to spend time on public lands without fear. These are our lands also!
Which takes me back to Harpers Bridge, a new lodge and the sense of hope it gave me and others? Why should we lose again, why should life be destroyed so one man can steal the life that so many others crave to see.
Beavers deserve to live in peace and make the Clark Fork their home. We all deserve the right to watch them live in harmony with the river. It’s time for our voices to be heard.
It’s our wildlife too!
Why we will fight
The snow is falling, the tracks are clear. The traps have been laid out on trails, closed roads and placed in the water, by the shores of rivers, which navigate our lands. For trappers, these are the good times. The time when they kill without reason, without logic, the times when they make clear that they control our public lands. That they have been given a right to destroy all that is wild. Devoid of soul, they lay their traps; they club or shoot those animals that have been lured to their fate, by the trapper’s lust to kill.
Ask yourself this-while hiking in the woods or following a river, when is the last time you saw a beaver or an otter? When did you see a fisher or a pine marten? How often have been privileged to see wolves in the wild, outside of Yellowstone? Have you ever encountered a swift fox? For most of us, the times have been few, if ever.
But what if trapping was ended? What then would your experience be on our public lands? It would likely be much more than just the scenery, it would more likely involve interaction with animals; species that stir the soul, that make you feel a sense of wonder. You see these hikes that seem normal to us, are in fact occurring in lands that are far too empty of life, a circumstance that cheats all of us of our right to co-exist peacefully with species. Trapping steals from us the wonder of species many have never seen, it leaves us a world of deer and elk. Like a painting that is missing color, we feel the need for more vibrancy in our outdoor experience. Our heart tells us so.
On the other side are people like State Representative Steve Gunderson of Libby, who clearly understands the trapper’s talking points, when he stated on Facebook “very interesting how the anti-trapping sentiment is asking for historic use of public lands to be removed”. What is so historic about the slaughter of wildlife in the West? It remains one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history, yet representatives like Gunderson, want to pretend that it was not only good, but we must keep this tradition alive despite all the science, our growing understanding of wildlife and the real extinction crisis we face. Gunderson, it appears, stands with the indiscriminate killing of wildlife, rather than understanding the ability to share the land with species that simply want to live. That inability to evolve is in truth the cultural “trap” that we face in moving to end trapping in Montana.
Trapping has no place in our modern world and trappers deserve no respect from elected officials, these cruel and inhumane people are a cancer on the land. Yet, respect they seem to continue to garner. There are many more like Gunderson who will fight to allow this morbid and destructive practice to continue. But if New Mexico is an example (trapping has been restricted and may be ended in the next two years), we must fight back hard and without fear, understanding we are the clear majority. We must be present at all Fish, Wildlife and Park Commission meetings. Not 4-5 of us, but more like 200 of us! We must begin to demand more of our city and county commissions to push Fish, Wildlife and Parks to stop trapping in the urban interface. We must take the traps off our rivers, so wildlife has a fighting chance.
If any of that seems right to you, then join us in our fight, begin looking at our website in the weeks ahead to see the campaigns that we are fighting for and help us by volunteering, by going to meetings, locating traps and letting us know, so people and pets can be safe. But most of all, it is critical that as a majority voice, we expect more of our elected officials and Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It is unacceptable for some elected officials to hide behind this myth that WE (those opposed to trapping) are taking the lands away and that we must respect this so-called tradition to trap and kill. Our answer is clear: bullshit.
Trappers have stolen the lands away from those that want to recreate and who believe strongly in sharing these lands with wildlife. That ethical compact, most of us understand as our responsibility.
These are times that define a movement. Let this be our time to stand together to end the suffering, the cruelty, the ignorance that ignores the wild heart of our lands. Trapping must end in Montana, it won’t happen overnight, so let’s get to work.
We have reached that time of year, one that comes quicker with age, but remains the domain of youth. In the forest, the animals are restless, they too understand Christmas, but more as the solstice and the beginning of more light. On the river, beavers are busy making sure their homes are secure. The pine martin, searches for food, it’s easier this year for the snow has been weak. It is winter in the northern Rockies and life is the tapestry of our land.
The wolves are on the move, keeping the deer and elk in motion. Along some stretches of river otters are rolling, playing and enjoying the quiet forest and the lack of ice. The bald eagles hug the river searching for trout and remain the sentries of the wild spirit of our beautiful lands.
Yet, we are also entering trapping season, a time of suffering and removal of the wild spirit our land needs to thrive. It is stealing from us the chance to share the land with species that leave us in awe, whose presence is part of the value of our life.
My wish this year is to walk the riverside and see beaver and otter, to sit under eagles in flight, to listen to the call of wolves and coyotes, which are running wild and free. To feel in the proscenium that is nature is alive and we are blessed by their presence.
But there will be those that will spend Christmas working to create the occlusion of life. Their right denies our wonder, steals from us joy, and leaves us searching for wonder. These are the trappers.
The bison are moving their heads back and forth, digging in the snow, their face is that of magnificence, of suffering, their movement slow and determined. The grizzly is sleeping, resting from a long summer. In Glacier, a wolverine searches for its next meal crossing through the biting winds of a high peak. That is what sets our state apart; while human diversity is scarce, our diversity comes in the form of wildlife. These animals are our greatest gift; they remind us that humans have yet to destroy- our wildest heart.
It’s Christmas in Montana, a land of soul, a place in need of rebuilding our sense of wildness. We must end the suffering of species; we must do it not just for them, but for us.
Merry Christmas to all of you!
Let’s work together in the New Year to end trapping once and for all. Then we can reclaim the public lands that belong to our 99% majority. We can and we must, for species great and small need our help. We must and we will, stand up and be their voice.
Please give what you can to our end of year appeal. Footloosemontana.org