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Reform Now

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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