The Montana Secretary of State recently approved Initiative 177 (I-177) for the November ballot. The measure would ban all trapping on public land.

“Over the past six years, grassroots efforts have been made to qualify an anti-trapping ballot question in Montana,” said Evan Heusinkveld, Sportsmen’s Alliance president and CEO. “Those efforts consistently broke down because of an inability to gather enough signatures to qualify the issue.”

This year however, a group called Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands submitted more than 30,000 signatures, many of them the result of paid signature gatherers. At last count, the state had certified 27,874, from 39 legislative districts, qualifying the issue for the ballot. If enacted, this measure would severely damage efforts to control wolf and coyote numbers, causing harm to wildlife including elk and antelope, as well as livestock such as sheep and cattle.

“I-177 is terrible for wildlife management, and for farmers and ranchers in Montana,” said Heusinkveld. “Instead of effectively managing the growing population of wolves and coyotes to protect not only wildlife, but livestock and people too, this measure would cause Montanans to suffer losses before anything could be done. This issue is unsafe, expensive, and it unnecessarily restrict the right of Montana citizens to use and enjoy public land.”

The only states that have enacted a ban on trapping are Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington. Similar to Montana, these issue claim to allow trapping by the state if necessary. In reality, I-177 only allows trapping to take place once a problem exists and after demonstrating that non-lethal means have been unsuccessful.

A group of sportsmen, along with agricultural interests, have already begun to coordinate a plan to oppose the issue. The group, called Montanan’s for Wildlife and Public Lands Access (MWPLA), is made up of the most prominent sportsmen’s and wildlife organizations in Montana. In addition to the Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Montana Trappers Association, the group already includes: the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Big Game Forever, Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, the Montana Bowhunters Association, the Montana Shooting Sports Association and the Montana State Houndsmen Association, along with other conservation and agricultural groups.

The Sportsman’s Alliance says, given the short time frame before elections, donations to counter the anti-trapping PR will be critical in the three largest television markets where the population centers in Montana live. To help defeat this bill, donations should be sent to: Montanans for Wildlife and Public Lands Access, PO Box 133, Gildford, MT 59525.