Thursday, March 1, 2012

Train Wrecks With Wildlife

Train Wrecks With Wildlife
By Tom McDowell
NM Stockman Feb. 2012

The story of North American wildlife management began early in the last
century. It began with hunters, trappers, ranchers and farmers demanding
something be done about the dwindling herds and flocks across our nation.
Folks from these groups, to one degree or another, lived off the land and saw
firsthand the effects that over exploitation was having on our wildlife;
they set out to fix the problem and did so at their own personal expense.
License fees, taxes, sweat equity and numerous volunteer hours were amassed
and expended to give us the tremendous wealth of wildlife that all enjoy
today.

Fast forward to the 70's: the place, the Tennessee Valley; the villain,
the Army Corp of Engineers; the victim, the Snail Darter and the "heroes",
the courts, their officers and the ESA (Endangered Species Act). This event
and others of the time, like Cleveland Amory's production "Guns of Autumn",
ushered in the era of "train wrecks" for our wildlife. Think not? Just
imagine where our wildlife and habitat could be if the millions wasted on
meaningless litigation would have been spent for its intended purposes.

Today, so many jump at the ESA as the source of all evil and the lawyers
as the devil's own, that far too often the true engineers of the "wrecks" go
unacknowledged. The ESA was intended, by its drafters, to be an
educational tool; a beacon on the real value of our wildlife and habitat. It was
not envisioned as a club to be used by the agenda driven animal rightist, who
today cloak themselves as "conservationist" with group names that sound
like they must care about our wildlife and wild places; alas they don't.
These groups have a few things in common: they seek to curtail consumptive
use; want families and individuals off of the landscape; want to be the
controllers of our values in regard to wildlife, wild places and rural life in
America and finally want everyone else to pay for it and for their elitists
lifestyles.

It is true that the ESA is in dire need of revision. Some in congress
have seen this truth, have acted and hopefully, with sufficient pressure,
will continue to act. The recent delisting of the Gray Wolf across the
northwest may finally enable these managers to right that "train" and restore
balance among both wildlife and rural-life. There is hope that shortly the
citizens of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan will once again have the ability
to manage their own.

Closer to home, Arizona has followed the lead of Governor Martinez and our
Game Commission and said no more wolves. After three decades of stalling
and failures it is obvious, to even the most casual observer, that federal
oversight / management of local wildlife is the problem not the solution.
The experiment to reintroduce "pen raised" habituated wolves is a failure.
These creatures, at least in the current environment, won't revert to
their wild ways. So long as there are people living in the area, these
wolves will continue to seek handouts in the form of livestock and family pets
(for food and sexual companionship). The solution is simple, remove the
people and everything will be good; just listen to today's
"conservationist". Folks it is obvious, our customs and cultures are as archaic as the
village blacksmith. We just need to give up and rollover into our new beds in
the concrete jungles of the world; I don't think so!

Yet another fight is brewing in our backyard; ban the "cruel and barbaric
steel jawed leg-hold" (foot-hold) traps from public land. Having failed
at pulling the proverbial wool over the eyes of our Game Commission and game
managers, the animal rights coalition is focusing its campaign of
sophistry and name calling toward the general public, with a clear focus on our
legislature. If they are successful, another train wreck for our wildlife and
rural-life will follow. In the face of ever expanding human populations
balanced management is the only hope for protecting our wildlife; trapping
is the most effective, and in many cases, only tool available for the
management of many species.

The allegations that foot-hold traps are cruel and that trappers are
barbaric may be a useful ploy in the attempt to derail effective wildlife
management, however, these allegations are completely false. The groups
spreading these myths have never let the truth stand in their way, nevertheless
the truth is out there for all to see. It is not possible for a trap to be
cruel; traps are inanimate objects and as such have no capacity for
behavior towards another. Furthermore, humane traps and trapping are governed
at the international, national and state levels. Not one but two
international standards exist through the ISO process; one relates to humane
restraining devices (foot-hold traps, cages and some snares) and the other for
traps that kill humanely. At the national level, new era “conservationists"
would have you believe that the data collected to bring the United States in
compliance with an European Union "Agreed Minute", which bans fur
importation from countries that permit inhumane trapping practices, has been
falsified by the Game Departments and Game Commissions of 38 state.

 The US Department of Agriculture, The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the
trappers of New Mexico and the rest of the country; this data must be bogus
for it supports modern trapping as a humane and ethical practice. The
truth be known, never in history has such scrutiny, testing and actual field
study been conducted on traps, trappers and trapping.

Coalitions of animal rightist conveniently ignore the facts that thousands
of animals have been captured for experimental tracking purposes,
relocations, reintroductions, protection of endangered species and population
control using the foot-hold trap. The widely successful reintroduction of the
River Otter across America (including NM) was accomplished by trappers
using foot-hold traps. Their beloved Gray Wolves, reintroduced into
Yellowstone, were caught by trappers using foot-hold traps, as are the problem Lobos
in the Gila. These traps are one in the same as those being used
annually across New Mexico to harvest fur and control predators.

Surrounding states which have misguidedly banned traps are frequently
lauded as role models for New Mexico. When have these states revived an
endangered species to sustainable levels compatible with hunting? New Mexico
has just done this with the Desert Bighorn Sheep. Desert sheep and trapping
you ask; the success of the sheep is directly tied to the trapping of
lions by New Mexico trappers who used foot traps. It was New Mexico game
managers and our Game Commission that demonstrated the leadership and foresight
necessary for this grand accomplishment while true conservation groups
raised monies to help fund the recovery. I wonder if becoming more like
California is really such a good idea.

There are numerous other examples of wildlife "train wrecks" including
disease transmission, crippling economic losses to predation and depredation
and destruction of our marshes and roadways to name a few. For example, a
few years ago we had an incident of rabies in our Gila fox populations.
The viral strain originated in Arizona (which has banned trapping) and
spread into the healthy population of fox in New Mexico. An outbreak of rabies
in one species can lead to ancillary cases of the disease in many mammals,
domestic and wild. Luckily, the rabies outbreak was short lived and
relatively isolated. Regulated trapping clearly has a role in a variety of
management strategies.

September of 2011 The Wildlife Society, a professional group with over
10,000 wildlife biologist and managers as members, released a statement
relative to the animal rights position. A portion of the summary follows: The
TWS "Support an animal welfare philosophy, which holds that animals can be
studied and managed through science-based methods and that human use of
wildlife—including regulated, sustainable hunting, trapping, and lethal
control for the benefit of populations, threatened or endangered species,
habitats, and human society—is acceptable, provided that individual animals are
treated ethically and humanely.

“There is a profound conflict between many
tenets of animal rights philosophy and the animal welfare philosophy
required for effective management and conservation,” says TWS President Tom
Ryder. “Established principles and techniques of wildlife population management
are deemed unacceptable by the animal rights viewpoint, but are absolutely
essential for the management and conservation of healthy wildlife
populations and ecosystems in a world dominated by human influences.” I suppose
that this group of professionals is also wrong.

With proper balanced management, our wildlife will flourish for all to
enjoy and our wild places and rural life styles will remain intact for future
generations. It is imperative for the "true" conservationist to join arms
in support of our wildlife, managers and Game Commission. To this end the
New Mexico Trappers Association has established an annual scholarship
to cover the tuition, room and board for a Game Department biologist or
officer to attend the Trappers College accredited by Purdue University. New
Mexico's hunter, ranchers, trappers, farmers and outdoorsmen must be vigilant,
with a unified goal of keeping the "North American Wildlife Express" on
her tracks.

Tom McDowell
Legislative Liaison
New Mexico Trappers Association

Supporting photos:
Female Bobcat released from a foothold trap. Contrary to the hyperbole of
the animal rights campaign, modern traps and trapping practices do not cut
the feet of captured critters.

Modern traps restrain catches and the trapper decides to harvest or
release. In some cases released critters just hang out; some seek odd vantages
from which to watch.
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