House Bill 212 endeavors to affirm that trapping is a form of hunting protected under the Montana Constitution. The bill, sponsored by Republican Representative Kirk Wagoner, changes terms and definitions within the constitution so the verbiage encompasses the right to trap, putting trapping in the same category as hunting and fishing which is currently preserved under Article IX, Section 7 of the Montana Constitution.
The Montana Wool Grower’s Association (MWGA) is all for the bill. A recent statement from them points out the antiquated and unscientific thinking behind HB 212, that if something was done a hundred years ago, it should still be done today, with no regard for the harm the action may cause. In the words of MWGA, “…historical evidence indicates that trapping has been taking place in Montana since the great Lewis and Clark adventure in the early 19th century. Further, there is a reason Trapper Peak is named “Trapper” Peak.”
Let’s hope there’s no Lynch Hill in rural Montana.
Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL) is putting forth great effort to raise awareness about HB 212. TFMPL was behind the 2014 ballot measure effort to curtail trapping on public lands. In four months of campaigning, volunteers obtained more valid signatures than any other 2014 initiative, although not enough to get on the ballot largely due to time constraints. A side effect of HB 212 is that ballot issue committees such as TFMPL would need a whopping 50,000 signatures (twice the number needed now) to get their initiative to the voters. This is because if HB 212 passes, TFMPL would be trying to change a constitutional amendment with their initiative. One wonders why HB 212 does not have to meet the same criteria as this bill is clearly an effort to change an amendment.
This is not only an issue about trapping, it’s also about adhering to what the public wants. In 2004 the Montana public voted to enact the inalienable rights of hunting and fishing (per the voter handbook) with no mention at all of trapping. Surely, this was not an oversight. HB 212 is making an attempt to significantly change an amendment without consulting the citizens of Montana. This approach seems underhanded and reminds me of the 2011 budget bill rider that served special interest groups that wanted wolves delisted so their individual states could mange them. Neither are actions approved by the majority.
TFMPL is asking us to say No! to HB 212. This link to legislators is easy to follow, takes only a minute, and can be used by everyone, not solely Montana citizens. When I did this, I checked the out of state box, chose to send my message to a committee, then picked the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee. Next I added my comment as to why I think the bill should not be passed.
We only have until 3 PM Mountain Time on Thursday, January 29, 2015 to submit comments. We’ve had enough success in our advocacy work to know that speaking up can make a difference. Please do so now!