Stephen Capra, Bold Visions Conservation
Following another legislative session where Republican lawmakers saw fit to impose their will on wildlife management, we saw the passage of SB-295. Like so many other Republican efforts to privatize wildlife and destroy predator species, the bill is another heavy on rhetoric and light on science.
Grizzly bears have not recovered in Montana. Lawmakers want you to believe they are, but facts do not match rancher and outfitter-infused talking points. What has been lost in this conversation is the fact that grizzly bears should never be hunted, period. At what point is Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks willing to enter the 21st century? At what point is our Governor, who lives to kill wildlife, willing to accept the reality that certain species are so vital, so rare, that Montana has a responsibility never to allow them to be hunted? Such is the case with grizzly bears.
Grizzlies reproduce far too slowly to allow any hunting. Like wolves, allowing our state to manage a grizzly season will result in the wholesale slaughter of this iconic species. The drive to kill wild predator species must be extinguished in our state. Predators are crucial to the health of all species.
The state has proven it cannot manage wolves; they cannot understand that wildlife has feelings, that they feel pain and suffer; rather they continue to cling to an 1880s approach to wildlife management. It is a disgrace and makes our state resemble a backwoods hollow rather than the modern state it has become, where wolf viewing brings more than $80 million to the state annually. Saying no to the killing of grizzlies is not a radical position. What remains radical in the 21st century is allowing species to be trapped, to be killed for prizes, and to allow faux science that allows such slaughters to continue.
Trappers want a trapping season on grizzlies. What world are we living in that would allow such sadism? No, we have reached a tipping point. Martha Williams, who lacks the educational credentials to run US Fish and Wildlife Service, is once again slow walking a response to the grizzly situation; in the past, she was all for a hunting season. She must hear loud and clear: We do not want any hunting season on grizzlies!
We must put down a marker; if wildlife in our state is to have a future, we cannot continue to allow the destruction of such beautiful creatures. We cannot allow outside interests like the Safari Club, NRA, Don Peay, and the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus to dictate wildlife management in Montana. Their goal is simple –trophy elk and deer in a landscape devoid of predators, creating a sterile landscape prone to disease.
I have hiked and camped in grizzly country for years. Never have I carried a gun. I have encountered bears within yards and awoke one night with a grizzly sitting on the edge of my tent in Alaska.
Never did the concept of killing a bear cross my mind. Instead, I was awed by their presence, something akin to a spiritual experience. You are a coward if that is your goal.
Montana has made a grave mistake in handling wolves; we have a chance to get it right for grizzlies. To do that means never allowing this great bear to be hunted.
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