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The Evil that Defines Game Commissions

Stephen Capra, Bold Visions Conservation

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission met for most of the day on August 17th. I was there for the meeting with so many people who care about wolves and grizzlies and cannot understand the need for trapping in 2023.

What is clear is that the real leader of the Commission is not Leslie Robinson, as we are led to believe, but rather the killing machine Pat Tabor. Tabor and his girth dominate the center of the Commission. His condescending voice controls what is happening, and he works the Commission to his desires, which always include the killing of predator species.

On this day, those opposed to wolf killing filled the air with their anger and rage. Person after person, interrupted on occasion by a trapper or someone from a livestock group, made clear that wolves should not be killed, that grizzlies killing was pure insanity. Yet the Commission remained stone-faced to such displays of emotion and science-backed fact.

The meeting was a fraud, with the Commission having no interest in comments, science and facts. Even more on display was the agency's apparent anger at any mention of creating a wolf committee that could include conservationists or scientists.

Instead, the Commission and agency simply want to slaughter all predators. Led by Tabor, the goal is now to kill even more wolves than proposed, that grizzlies need to be delisted and then slaughtered, and finally, to allow trapping to go forward as though it is an important conservation tool.

The best part of the day was the voices and commitment of those who came or testified for wildlife via Zoom. They are the voice of courage and change and make clear to all wildlife-focused organizations that it is essential that we work together to fight these well-funded kill groups that work in unison to destroy all that is wild. The reality remains that this agency needs to be blown up and rebuilt from the ground up. It no longer has relevancy. It is controlled by radical sportsman's groups-The Foundation for Wildlife Management, NRA, The Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, and the Safari Club. It has no interest in science, no compassion for wildlife, and no sense of the emotional connection that so many people have with wildlife. Most important is that the agency and Commission have no willingness to allow non-hunters to have any ability to put money into the agency to have a voice. If it continues, we will lose biodiversity in the West, we will have wolves that are emotionally destroyed by fear, and grizzlies will soon follow their fate. Constantly, we are told by sportsmen and trappers that wildlife such as wolves need management. It is not wildlife that needs managing; it is its people.

We need a conservation-based department, one that looks to make life better for wildlife. It needs to ignore ranching interests who graze as a privilege, not a right. We need elected officials who are not hunters but people who love wolves and other wildlife and carry a camera, not a gun. We cannot continue to legalize the cruel destruction of living beings by a group of thugs. This Commission, by their actions, makes clear their lack of legitimacy.

People are tired and frustrated by all this, and that is what these groups and the Commission are trying to achieve. We must fight back with anger and focus and threaten the very legitimacy that they cling to that gives them power. It begins with a serious effort to end the current Commission and to make efforts to defend the department by blocking the monies received by Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson. We must create a separate commission run by select citizens and wildlife groups that issues its own statements and data to show this agency's disconnect clearly. One thing is clear: We must vocally make clear this agency and Commission have no credibility and that the time has come to rebuild from the ground up so that wildlife has a chance to thrive.

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