Preserve Balanced, Science-Driven Wildlife Management

I-177 would have far-reaching, damaging impacts on public safety, taxpayers and wildlife

By David Allen

Plain and simple, I-177 would have far-reaching, damaging impacts on public safety, taxpayers and wildlife.  The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation stands opposed to I-177.

Trapping is a key tool used by wildlife managers as a science-based management technique to maintain healthy wildlife populations and habitat. I-177 bans one of the safest and most cost-effective methods for controlling populations of skunks, muskrats, coyotes, raccoons, beaver, wolves, foxes and similar species.

We live in a time where simply allowing Mother Nature to take care of itself in terms of maintaining balanced populations of certain species is not possible. With more than a million people in Montana, many of us living in urban areas and depending on public infrastructure, we need all the science-based wildlife management tools available.  I-177 would shut down the timely use of traps to remove unwanted pests from city, county, state and federal public lands.  This could include school yards, fishing areas and camping and picnic sites.

I-177 does allow the use of trapping in certain situations such as to protect livestock, reduce a public hazard or protect infrastructure BUT only after an exhaustive list of criteria have been met including alternative methods that will be costly.  There will be no immediate ability to trap and remove nuisance animals presenting a greater risk to the public.

I-177 will also take a bite out of the taxpayer’s wallet. Figures provided by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ chief legal counsel indicate Montanans will be on the hook for $422,000 annually to replace what trappers already pay to do. Furthermore, FWP does not currently have the staffing to meet I-177’s requirements. As a result, FWP indicates it will need to hire six employees, pay for radio collars and other equipment, helicopter monitoring time and have additional annual statewide operation costs. Costs will also increase for towns, cities, parks, schools and universities to contract services to deal with nuisance animals. And the alternatives to trapping are far less desirable. Wildlife managers may be forced to use poison which is far more dangerous for wildlife, pets and humans because of its indiscriminate nature.

It is also interesting to note that many of the leaders of the group responsible for placing this initiative on the ballot are out-of-staters. They are from Illinois, New York and Germany among other places.  They are serving a broader political agenda and have no real interest in the day-to-day lives of Montana residents.

Lastly, making wildlife management decisions at the polls is a dangerous path. Let’s leave that to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission based on comments and input from the public as well as professionals in the field and confirmed through science and research.  This process has served our fine state for generations.

Vote no on I-177. For more detailed information, go to rmef.org.