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by Stephen Capra, Executive Director, Bold Visions Conservation

Our new address Bold Visions Conservation, PO Box 941 Bozeman, MT 59771

As I head to Bozeman to speak with the mayor and county commission, along with Tom Rodgers, my Washington, DC, educator of all things federal government, this trip has another purpose. It is closing a very popular Bozeman trail, known as Sourdough Trail, to trapping. Sourdough, like many hiking trails across the West, is in an urban interface. Some of the land on the trail is on City lands; others are cross-sections belonging to the US Forest Service. We spoke to the USFS and the city several years ago. The FS indicated that if the city closed the 9-mile trail to trapping, they would follow suit.

 

Michael Stroeger, our Bozeman-based Director, has been meeting with elected officials and people across the community to emphasize the danger to pets and families hiking this busy trail. The Mayor and Councilors have indicated they will move this to a vote soon.


The bottom line remains we must create safe landscapes for wildlife. Protecting a hiking trail may sound minor in scale, but it is something that trappers have been fighting, and we must begin to take away their control of our city and public lands. We can start with this trail and continue to push back on trapping anywhere near the urban interface and erode their power once and for all. Let's face it: we want to hike with security, and we want our families and pets to be safe. Most of all, we want the nightmare of trapping to end once and for all.

 

We will meet these city officials on Monday, pushing for a vote soon on closing the sourdough trail to trapping. We will also brief them on our Monument proposal and work to get their support for a monument that would ban trapping and protect wolves, grizzlies, and other vital predators.


So we ask you to write to them and ask not only for Sourdough Trail to be closed to trapping but also for their support of this Monument for Wildlife—1.6 million acres designed to protect our most important species. We will work hard to convince them of both. The reality remains: It's time to end trapping now and start to erode trappers' sick control of our precious public lands.

 

TO CONTACT THE BOZEMAN MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL.




by Stephen Capra, Executive Director, Bold Visions Conservation


As summer kicks in, people from across the world pour into the West. This place of dreams is filled with those seeking adventure. Many will try to pet a buffalo (not a good idea) or, for the first time, get work thousands of miles from home. They will be awestruck by sunsets and surprised by late snow.


I was once one of the 18-year-olds who came West for my first job at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. It snowed the first week we arrived. With my friends, we explored the park on days off and drove into the mountains at night, drinking in and feeling the freedom that comes with youth and the wonder of magical landscapes. At the end of the summer, with my friend Sam Wainer, who would in the years to come hike with me from Mexico to Canada to raise awareness for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we once drove all day and night to the Grand Canyon.

We arrived on the north rim at about 3 a.m. In the first light, we could see what we had driven for: the canyon in its splendor opened before us. Both being photographers, we dove out of the car and stood dumbstruck in awe. We took many pictures, hugged one another, and shouted to the canyon below. We were young and free, and the West was now part of our soul.

 

We went back east that year, and I flunked out of school. I was lost back in the East, and my very being needed to be in the West.

 

Many adventures followed, working for a few months, then quitting to explore the wilds of Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Olympics, Alaska, and so many more. My eyes over that time began to see what my excited youth could not. Scars on the land, timber cutting, mining, erosion by cattle, and the various ways our public lands were degraded.

 

We were also surprised by how little wildlife we encountered. Each one was met with wonder, and the excitement was something we talked about for days and weeks. It never occurred to me in those early years that so many wanted to kill wolves, bears, or any animal. They were so innocent, so beautiful; it all seemed so perfect.

But as the years passed, I saw many a hunting season come and go; coyotes hung from fence posts. My time in conservation made me read and learn so much about how people find killing animals a thrill. Like many, we have witnessed such injustice for so many animals that simply want to live.

 

As I get older, there are books I can no longer read and things that happen to animals that leave me brokenhearted. Still, my will to protect them never dies, as it does for many of you. I may not be the best scientist, and I cannot give you endless facts, but like many of you, passion and justice are the drivers.

 

It seems to me over the years, the conservation community has spent far too much time trying to work with people who hate us, who continue to control our public lands for one reason- to abuse them.

Our efforts now to create a sanctuary of 1.6 million acres are meant to protect the wildlife we love and allow another generation to experience the freedom and magic of wildlife and wildlands.

 

But it is also a statement that we are not giving in. We want our public lands protected, not disseminated. We want to hike and explore lands where wildlife can be part of the experience. We can send a message and create a new precedent for wildlife and public lands. We can turn Yellowstone, which is now 2.2 million acres, into a park of 3.8 million protected acres.

Trappers will not enter; trophy hunters will not kill predators in this sanctuary. We can take back from Game and Fish agencies that they have stolen and make clear that wolves belong in the West.

 

Perhaps I am a dreamer, but I have faith in the Tribes who will lead this and in the people like yourself, hungry for victory and tired of killing at the hands of ignorance.

 

I hope one day we can all enjoy a summer day in this vast and beautiful land under the sign that reads America’s newest National Monument. That exceptional land and the wildlife it protects can be a sanctuary for wildlife and our souls.

 

Perhaps then we can all shout our joy into the canyons of our youth and the mountains that leave us with the satisfaction that comes from a life in the West.


Trappers will not enter; trophy hunters will not kill predators in this sanctuary. We can take back from Game and Fish agencies that they have stolen and make clear that wolves belong in the West.

 

Perhaps I am a dreamer, but I have faith in the Tribes who will lead this and in the people like yourself, hungry for victory and tired of killing at the hands of ignorance.

 

I hope one day we can all enjoy a summer day in this vast and beautiful land under the sign that reads America’s newest National Monument. That exceptional land and the wildlife it protects can be a sanctuary for wildlife and our souls.

 

Perhaps then we can all shout our joy into the canyons of our youth and the mountains that leave us with the satisfaction that comes from a life in the West.


by Stephen Capra, Executive Director, Bold Visions Conservation



This past week as our efforts to create a new 1.6-million-acre National Monument moved forward, emails revealed that some people still need to understand the Monument concept. Monuments protect lands, antiquities, and wildlife. They are designated by the President and avoid a congressional vote. Monuments you may know include the Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Bears Ears, etc. Some, like the Grand Canyon and Tetons, are now National Parks.

 

Several people have emailed me because they are upset about not wanting a sculpture or statue. That is not what we are proposing. The lands north and west of Yellowstone are part of the Custer-Gallatin and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, lands and rivers being managed for exploitation. Our goal is simple but not easy to achieve; working with the Tribes of Idaho and Montana to protect 1.6 million acres of Forest Service lands, not private lands. Work to make them trap-free and not allow the killing of predators such as wolves, grizzlies, cougars, etc. In exchange, they would be part of a co-management plan. That is the goal, and none of this would happen without the support of the Tribes in states with Governors and radical legislatures sworn to the slaughter of wildlife. This means giving wildlife room to thrive and setting a marker that we have had enough of wildlife debauchery in the West.

 

You saw the word reform in the title of this piece, so I want to share some thoughts. We all saw the Hogs for Wildlife's success last weekend. The goal of awareness was achieved, but we also saw the faces and savagery of the community of Daniel that appears to worship the killing of wildlife. The coyote was sacrificed to make clear their hate for anyone getting in their way. What we must learn and make clear to the state wildlife agencies staffed with trappers and other wildlife killers is that it is time to put your energy and resources into managing rural communities, not wildlife.




What that means is sending undercover agents to go to areas with wolf populations. Undercover sting operations should be the norm, and fines and loss of hunting and trapping privileges should be the first order of business. You torture any wildlife; you lose your ability to hunt and trap for life. Then you go to jail.

 

But in these states, with the most critical wildlife and threatened or endangered species in the lower 48, the goal seems to be to torture and abuse any predator you want. These actions are, by and large, the product of rural communities that hunt with obsession, that often poach and trap like it is religion. I have many friends who live in rural communities, so this is not everyone. Still, it adds up to a large volume of the species that are being killed and the desire by many outfitters to unleash a hunt of grizzlies.

 

Hunting is a tradition for many, but in recent times, the ethics of hunting has become lost in high-powered guns, traps, and drones. It is no longer a sport but a game with an almost pre-ordained outcome. Those in rural communities are also often friends with ranchers, who they see as role models of enjoying the Government dole and having friends in the legislature and the federal government. Remember, if you graze 1000 cattle on public lands, you will enjoy a $20,000-a-month subsidy. In many cases, ranchers are a vocal voice against wolves, coyotes, and other predator species. One might imagine allowing someone to hunt on their property; they might be happy to see you respond by killing a predator.


Wolves have become a rallying cry for rural Western America. They are blamed for the loss of elk and deer. Yet, the maturing of forests and the endless hunting and shoulder seasons point to the obvious; in certain areas, the forests have engulfed meadows, like parts of Western Montana. But we have more deer and elk than we have had in generations. Killing predators is simply an act of defiance for many and a new way to enjoy killing. It also defiantly ignores the risk of Chronic Wasting Disease, which wolves can reduce.

 

State Wildlife agencies that make a big production about the killing of an elk for its antlers still allow bison and deer to be shot and their carcasses used to lure wolves out of Yellowstone to their demise. That is not management but sickness. In Idaho, the Game Department is pushing to allow wolves to be trapped by outfitters, and a client in Texas can fly up and shoot the wolf after days of suffering. This must end.

 

With honest leadership, something awareness demands, we can create a Wildlife agency that seeks out those who kill without mercy, like those who brag in a bar, and bring them to justice and set an example that will scare others from their perverted ways.

 

This is the type of specific request we must push forward. It is part of how we must never allow Cody Roberts and others like him to be free to continue their atrocities; his actions must set in motion the change in rural America that only law enforcement, undercover stings, and new laws can make a reality.

 

Bold Visions Conservation is working with Montana legislators on a slew of new bills for this January. Some will incorporate what we are working towards.

 

In the meantime, let's work together as like-minded individuals for an additional 1.6 million acres to protect predators and all wildlife in this essential land and allow Yellowstone to breathe. This work is never easy, but without a goal, good people, and an intelligent strategy, we can never dream big. Let's fight for a new Monument and reform the very agencies that are, in theory, there to help wildlife but, in reality, are working to slaughter it.



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