On November 8, Montanans soundly rejected Initiative 177 (I-177), which would have banned trapping on public lands in Montana, subverting the science-based fish and wildlife management model in the United States.
Voters defeated I-177 by a vote of 63 percent to 37 percent. As written, I-177 would have prohibited use of traps and snares for animals on any public lands within Montana, with very narrow exemptions given to state and federal wildlife managers in certain circumstances. The initiative would have effectively decimated legally-allowed fur trapping in Montana and created significant hurdles for both municipalities and state fish and wildlife managers needing to utilize trapping to alleviate certain animal damage control efforts.
Anti-hunting and anti-trapping groups pushed a narrative of non-scientific rhetoric and emotionally-charged messages as a means of ending trapping in the state, despite a lack of demonstrable evidence that legal, regulated trapping, via both fur trappers and animal damage control workers, has had any negative impacts on wildlife populations. Both in-state and national sportsmen’s groups expressed strong opposition to I-177, as did in-state farming and ranching interests. Sportsmen led a strong, fact-based campaign to educate Montanans on the necessity of trapping as a component of science-based fish and wildlife management, and to reinforce the fact that the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) already strictly regulates trapping in the state.
Montana’s 335,000 sportsmen and women are an enormous economic driver in the state, supporting more than 16,500 Montana jobs and spending $983 million in the state each year, while generating $102 million in state and local tax revenues. Eliminating the ability to trap and harvest wildlife on public lands, as well as taking away a valuable wildlife management tool, will negatively impact the economic impact of sportsmen and women in Montana and in any other state, as well as negatively impact the revenue that flows to the state for fish and wildlife management through license and tag sales and excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?