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In Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks Only Knows to Kill

Stephen Capra, Bold Visions Conservation

Over the last few months, attention in Montana has focused on a so-called Mountain Lion problem. Really? It appears an agency only too happy to kill predators is once again feeling that trigger finger. Or should I say trap fever?

After several years of slaughtering wolves, justifying it using the iPOM method of counting that many professionals in the field have made clear works for elk, not wolves, and filling it with old data, they continue to contend that the wolf situation is just fine. This is from an agency that is bleeding workers with experience because they are forced to work under the terms of Governor Gianforte and the abysmal Republican-led legislature that wants to make Montana a deer and elk farm.

Now we are told we have a mountain lion issue. Reading over the reports by the agency, one would think we are a state devoid of deer and elk. The reality is we have far too many and endless shoulder seasons (additional hunting of elk and deer) make clear that we do not need to kill mountain lions, so there are more elk, rather we need more wolves and predators so we can have a healthy balance on the land.

What remains interesting is the push by Commissioner Patrick Tabor, who has interjected himself into this debate by making several motions during the hearing in June to make clear that he wanted an aggressive kill on lions that will likely result in eliminating 40 percent of the population.

Prior to this, the Commission set up a special committee that was represented by hunting interests. They were spoon-fed data and facts from the agency that was supposed to be science-based.

Questions were posed, such as: What is the problem? Answer-too many lions. What is the issue? Answer- the impact on hunting objectives could result in fewer young elk and deer. This group then was charged with coming up with a solution. Once again, the agency was playing God with wildlife and spoon-feeding the public a result. Tabor, whose son now has been given his outfitting business and stands to profit greatly from such hunting, and if there were more deer and elk to kill, made sure his efforts were not in vain. (It is part of why we ask you to sign our petition to be removed from the Commission.)

Once again, the self-dealing of the commission is on full display. Once again, a predator species is under attack. First, it was coyotes, then wolves, then the push to delist grizzlies so they can be killed, and now mountain lions.

Their fingerprints litter the woods and meadows: trophy hunting interests, trappers, livestock players, the Outfitters Association, and now the agency and commission acting on behalf of a Governor who lives to destroy the very predators that bring health to the land. It is part of the privatization of wildlife, which will profit private land owners and ranchers. The Governor wants to destroy predator species so that elk and deer tags will become hard currency for the few.

Meanwhile, even those who hunt mountain lions are angered by such radical actions, speaking out against such an aggressive kill when we still do not have accurate counts on the lion population.

This naturally follows actions taken in Idaho, where lion conservation has been destroyed. Governor Gianforte, rather than understanding the former value of the Fish, Wildlife and Parks history of independence and standing up for wildlife, is pushing it to replicate Idaho.

We continue to fight for sanity despite the chaos that has become wildlife management in the Rocky Mountain North.

Mountain lions are as beautiful as they are elusive. Yet once again, ignorance and the desire for profit conspire to destroy them. We must transform the very agency that is designed to manage them. It must be rebuilt from the ground up. Rather than using concrete, it should be rebuilt with science, ethics, compassion, a real conservation focus, and an understanding of the pain and suffering being inflicted on wildlife. It must make wildlife the priority, not that of those that seek to harm their wildness.

It should go out 100 years in thinking, so we can reflect on the folly of our ways today, driven by the ignorance and sacrifice of species that are considered normal. We must never allow Governors or sportsmen to control an agency and ranching interests should be blocked from serving on any Commission.

Our work begins with being at the hearing on August 17th and making clear the slaughter must stop and that trapping has no place in modern Montana. It ends when we flush the stench out of an agency that represents a bygone era of man’s fear of wildlife.

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