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by Stephen Capra, Executive Director, Bold Visions Conservation

The environment is not tailored to man; it is itself, for itself. All its creatures fit in. They know how, from ages past. Man fits in or fights it. Fitting in, living in it, carries challenge, exhilaration, and peace.  —Margret Murie

Dear members,

as I said in a recent video that was placed on Facebook, we have all suffered from the torture of the Wyoming wolf by a madman. While we all want to see justice, Wyoming continues to slow walk such efforts. In Colorado, trophy hunters we have discovered (we were led to believe it was ranchers) have accused me of illegal lobbying; their efforts are designed to suck energy and time from our organization; why? Because they want wolves destroyed in Colorado and groups like Bold Visions Conservation silent. Their charges are ridiculous and time-consuming. In Idaho, the Game and Fish Department is looking to allow Outfitters to trap wolves and hold them in traps until a client can come and shoot them. All of this means we must act!

 

So rather than complain, Bold Visions continues to try to be proactive in protecting wolves and all wildlife. In Bozeman now, Michael Stroeger, our Bozeman coordinator, is leading the charge to ban trapping on Sourdough Trail, a trail popular for families and pets that is currently open to trapping year-round. We may have a vote soon to end it.

 

But our biggest goal, which now has the support of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, is a plan to add 1.6 million acres to Yellowstone by creating a National Monument.  While the Monument would allow the hunting of deer and elk, our goal is to not allow the killing of wolves, grizzly bears, and other predator species and to ban trapping. That is part of making it an expansion of Yellowstone. So, we can all feel sad and outraged, but we can also funnel our energy into a project that can keep the species we love alive and protect perhaps one of the most important wildlife corridors in the lower 48.

I have said this many times: any Monument is difficult to create. One designed for wildlife has never been tried outside of ocean Monuments. No one, to my knowledge, has banned trapping. There will be fury by many, and some op-eds have already begun. Imagine, though, finally making a stand for wolves and grizzlies, giving lands for protection that are free of the mindset of torture and misguided manhood. Something that will be there for generations to come.

 

Wolves and the many endangered species of this vital stretch of wild land, not only deserve this, they need it badly. While it may seem like a moon shot, sometimes the best things we strive for come from a simple vision, passion and a solid strategic plan, which we have along with some great people working together for this goal. One point six million acres in Montana and Idaho sends a message that magnifies how people are tired of how wildlife is being managed in these states.  Instead, we want to be able to see wildlife when we hike, fish or recreate, not just read about animals lost to the mine field of traps, and the persuasive efforts by ranchers and trophy hunting groups to destroy the wolves and other predators that so many have celebrated. It is also a chance to educate the public by seeing and experiencing these animals in the wild and pushing back on ignorance and misinformation.

 

Let’s not forget that many of the states actively killing predators get a large share of the federal dole. They are not centers of commerce, and livestock production is about 13th in Montana in terms of revenue. Ranchers want to control federal lands; for them, there is no room for wolves. Wolves not only help the land but are an economic engine.

It is important to write letters of support to the President, the Secretary of the Interior, and local newspapers and let your friends on the East Coast or Central time zone know that this is a monument for wildlife and a vital piece to expanding much of what we love about Yellowstone!

 

We do not want wildlife to suffer, but the game agencies in these states refuse to use science and continue to be controlled by the legislature, trophy hunters, and trappers. They want wolves and grizzlies to be killed so outfitters can profit. Our job is to begin the process of protecting large landscapes so wildlife can thrive! It’s time that the violence against wildlife is stopped and that sanity returns to the public lands that are owned by all Americans.

 

Please be a part of making a difference for wildlife! Please give what you can today to a very expensive endeavor and feel free to call or email me if you have any more questions.

 

Let’s get busy making a Monument for Wildlife! Let’s do something positive for wolves and grizzlies today.


by Michael Stoerger, Bozeman Director, Bold Visions Conservation

Before the first quarter of any MSU Bobcat football game, the team trots out behind waves of cheerleading tarts, rodeo queens, and marching band misfits in a rowdy display of manufactured collegiate enthusiasm. The emblem signifying all this university pride is the bobcat. Meanwhile, a mere gunshot away in the watersheds that surround Gallatin Valley, bobcats by the hundreds are being legally trapped and killed. In 2021, 1500 bobcats were “harvested”, as the trappers like to call it, keeping them at a safe sanitary distance from what it actually is—murder. Semantics matter. Crops are harvested. Animals are killed. By the end of the fourth quarter, there are undoubtedly several cats suffering in traps, waiting for certain death. A variety of final agonies await: bludgeoning, strangling, drowning. As the football team is caught up in victory, the animals that serve as the pride of their mascot are caught in a foothold trap. No quarter for them.

 

Trapping, a Montana tradition woven into our cultural heritage, is nothing more than a shameful stain on our society. There is no fair chase ethic in trapping. It is simply a lazy pursuit for people who take pleasure in killing animals for recreation. FWP actually classifies trapping as a “recreational pursuit”. It also violates two tenants of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation: the elimination of markets for game and that wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose. Despite what trappers will delude themselves with, it is not a tool of wildlife management. It is what psychologists who study early behavior of serial killers would identify as sociopathic tendencies.

Trapping had its place in the 18th century when beaver pelts and buckskins were used as trading currency. Survival on the frontier was at stake. But it’s disgraceful to keep this tradition alive so a few heathens can live out their faux mountain man fantasies. It’s time to close this dark chapter in the book of American history. Some traditions must be preserved and some must die. We don’t burn witches at the stake anymore. We don’t sacrifice animals to appease the Gods. We abolished slavery. Trapping needs to go extinct, not the animals. Times change. If we want to call ourselves civilized, we must evolve.

 

Why are the pursuits of a tiny minority of consumptive users taking priority over the vast majority of the community that simply want to recreate without fear of consequence? Less than 1% of Montanans are trappers and yet they hold our public lands hostage by laying landmines that injure or kill thousands of non-target animals, including our pets. The risk to public safety cannot be ignored. Our beloved dogs, who routinely run off-leash on trails, can easily get caught in a trap. There is no such thing as targeted trapping for a specific species. This is a myth, as the very nature of trapping is indiscriminate. Upland game bird hunters know this all too well as there have been many cases of bird dogs getting snared in sets “intended” for coyotes.

Besides wolves, there is no mandatory trap check so animals are often languishing in a trap for multiple days and nights, in winter. With the exception of Montana, North Dakota, and Alaska, every other state that allows trapping requires trappers to check their trap within 24 hours. Some animals die of hypothermia, exposure, or hunger & thirst. Others die of blood loss after hours of chewing off their own limb to escape. Some are victims of other predators as they become easy prey. Some suffer tooth fractures trying to chew away at the trap. All of them suffer psychological trauma.

 

With a long-term view to end trapping on all public lands, Bold Visions Conservation is working to ban trapping at the wildland/urban interface. We are spearheading a local campaign to make the Bozeman Creek trail in Sourdough Canyon off-limits to trapping and snaring. This watershed is part of the crucial wildlife migration corridor in the Gallatin range that is home to several protected species, including lynx habitat. Unlike Missoula, which has 3 trap-free zones, Bozeman has none. The City of Bozeman owns several sections of land up the Sourdough drainage. Please contact the mayor of Bozeman and each city commissioner. Ask them to ban all trapping and snaring on city-owned land up in Sourdough.

 

Michael Stoerger is the Bozeman director for Bold Visions Conservation.


One question frequently posed to us is, “How can we move forward and make real progress on protecting wolves and other predators?” We know specific facts, and the Game and Fish commissions of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are in no mood to change. The Republican-controlled legislatures and Governors remain stuck in the 1880s, beholden to livestock interests, trappers, and rural rage.

 

In such an atmosphere, we continue to move forward with an ambitious plan to protect 1.6 million acres of Forest Service lands in Idaho and Montana by creating a new National Monument for wildlife.

 

We now enjoy the support of many of the Tribes of Idaho and Montana. We just hired their lead lobbyist in Washington, Tom Rodgers, to educate lawmakers in D.C. and have crucial meetings with Secretary Deb Haaland and the Monument gatekeeper, John Podesta, former Chief of Staff in the Clinton Administration. The Tribes have asked for co-management of these lands, and their support will be crucial to the success of this Monument proposal. Several wilderness areas we worked to protect in New Mexico enjoy co-management with Tribes.


Remember, Monuments are created by the President using the Antiquities Act; our goal is to present this concept of a Monument for wildlife to protect wolves, grizzlies, and other predator species and protect the one area around Yellowstone that lacks crucial protection. Such protection would be an enormous victory and start the actual process of a change in the thinking of those dedicated to killing wildlife for trophy or trapping to enjoy their sadistic urges. In the Monument, hunting deer and elk would continue. Still, we aim to create a safe space for predators and other wildlife needing room to roam and the safety it would allow.  Sportsmen will be influential in this designation. But as you can bet, it will not be easy.

 

Our job is to present this to diverse audiences in both states, answer the many questions people may have, and garner the most positive press we can. If you know a group or a community you can suggest, please call or email me.

 

Yellowstone is iconic for most Americans, and visiting it is a rite of passage for most young families. But wildlife needs far more land than the park currently can protect. Efforts to protect parts of the Gallatin range as wilderness have failed, though we support such efforts. The creation of a Monument would open the door for more wilderness.


Many Monuments are created for Antiquities or to protect lands, and wildlife is generally put on the back burner, except for Ocean Monuments. This area remains a critical wildlife corridor, so its protection is vital for species to make their way north and south. It is also an essential space for bison and other endangered species.

 

But the opposition is beginning; the local paper in Island Park, Idaho, recently railed against this proposal and made clear their feelings would be telegraphed to Boise. So, your voice will be important in letters to the editor and op-eds that speak to the need to protect this magnificent landscape and to make clear this is a Monument for Wildlife!

 

The other important aspect of this Monument is the opportunity to restore lands where old logging roads exist and where erosion has impacted streams. This will create jobs and rewild areas, creating far better wildlife habitats.

 

We have all witnessed the deranged thinking of our Game and Fish Departments and how our Governors cater to livestock interests heavily subsidized by the federal government. But we must do something paramount for wildlife and, in its own way, stop the bleeding and create a space for victory. Otherwise, we will continue to bear too much heartache. We need to smile again!

 

Bold Visions will continue fighting to end trapping and fight for wolves and grizzlies. Still, it is time to move forward to give wildlife something meaningful. That is the goal of this 1.6-million-acre Monument. They have space to thrive!

 

This is hard work and expensive, but we can succeed with luck and strong support from people like you. Please consider donating today, and if you can volunteer, please call me. We are early in the game, but working with a strong team. Let’s work to protect a landscape where the howl of the wolf continues to be magic, with the understanding that they would finally be safe beyond the boundaries of Yellowstone.



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