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~Committed to Conservation, Education and the Preservation of our Natural Resources~

"Promoting Science Based Wildlife Management Decisions for a Better Massachusetts"

CRWM Response 1998 Oversight Report

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Revisiting the 1996 Question One Ballot Initiative, twelve years later

 The overall content that appeared in Section 1 of the 1996 Question ONE Ballot Initiative underscores the total disregard and lack of understanding by the individuals who crafted this ballot question concerning the North American Conservation model initiated over 100 years ago.  It highlights their inability to objectively reason and work positively with wildlife management professionals who have dedicated their lives to conservation.  And most disturbing, is the continued willingness to use unfounded "fear" tactics, half truths or out right lies to gain support by citizens who know little to nothing about critical furbearer wildlife management methods on today's landscape.  Modern restraint devices and selective trapping methods today are used across the country in conjunction with a high degree of state/federal regulation.  When done responsibly, it poses virtually little to no threat to people or domestic animals and have the welfare of wildlife as a paramount priority. In fact, trapping actually has many benefits to both society and wildlife as a whole. The use of furbearer trapping is viewed as a critical activity by state wildlife agencies; incorporating it into their conservation management plans and is a tool that gets the job done effectively and humanely. Trapping helps to balance out wild populations with their habitat and the lands ‘carrying capacity’.  This in turn reduces wide population swings and helps to balance predator/prey relationships. Smaller, healthier, and more diverse populations are less stressed and can better withstand negative pressure from disease outbreaks and changes in their surrounding habitat. In addition, properly managed furbearer populations generate fewer animal/human conflicts allowing for a greater, peaceful co-existence.  Wildlife biologists across country will tell you; the "danger" to wildlife is not trapping or traps - as the Initiative text suggests, but the continued loss of natural habitat that supports them.  

"Cruel traps", as it is stated in the initiative text, is a phrase commonly used by anti-trapping/animal rights advocates to invoke a desired response and was directed here towards two types of devices; the "leghold" live restraint and the "conibear style" kill type traps. Before breaking apart this biased, generalized expression, we must first be very careful not to associate "death" with cruelty… simply put; without death, there can no continuation of life. The two are inseparable in the continued, never-ending cycle of all living things – including our own species. ‘Animal rights’ advocates would argue that all death is cruel, if done by human hands. This philosophy however, goes against the forces of nature and portrays humans as spectators to the natural world, rather than intimate participants in it. The increasing societal psychological and physical disconnect with nature and lack of general understanding with our position in it, has allowed this ideology take hold and continues to flourish in our increasing urbanized world. Some of these so-called "cruel traps" – or more appropriately, modern "foothold restraint devices" are responsible for the reintroduction of threatened and endangered species, protection of Americans National Wildlife Refuges by reducing the exotic Nutria, protecting threatened species by reducing predators and the list goes on.

Today’s modern trapping devices have received a tremendous amount of interest stemming from a variety of disciplines to create more efficient, effective and humane devices to capture furbearing wildlife. Literally hundreds of scientific studies and tests have been completed over the past decades. Many of the resulting technologically improved live restraint and kill devices are approved for use by every state and wildlife agency in the country.  These advances have been achieved with the welfare of the animal being of highest priority. For all parties involved, animal welfare is not only desirable, but essential for our continued humanity. The results from this research are compiled in documents called ‘Best Management Practices for trapping’ (BMP’s) developed by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) and are considered the standard that every state follows. 

The adoption of the ‘1996 Question ONE Ballot Initiative’ effectively eliminated modern restraint and kill type devices for use in conservation management efforts in Massachusetts. But just as disturbing; it severed the future bond with the natural world many rural citizens had already incorporated into their lives passed down through generations.  It imposed a new discriminatory philosophy upon their way of life, and placed the "management" of furbearers into the ‘nuisance animal’ realm, allowing only lethal devices after all non-lethal attempts had failed and written permission from the Director of MA. Division of Fish & Wildlife was obtained. This section of the text also implies that animals caught in "live traps" like the Bailey or Hancock devices are kept alive, which is not the case since live transport and release of beaver is illegal in Massachusetts. This initiative gutted an integral component used in successful statewide conservation efforts and forced law abiding citizens to take unlawful quick action into their own hands to avoid immediate impacts to their land. The end result has been increased negative impacts on wildlife and societies interaction with it.

The irony to the passage of this "Massachusetts Wildlife Protection Act" is that the only thing it appears to have accomplished in protecting is the guilt some people have with being human and our predefined position in nature.  The concept of modern conservation in North America was created and put into action by a multitude of disciplines over 100 years ago, in which all interests were included. Groups who wanted to use wildlife and those who only wanted to preserve it – this is where the power of the movement gained its strength and this is what made it most successful. While ideology and emotion have a place in this process, it in no way should be used in an attempt to dismantle a Conservation ethic a century in the making or use it to displace science, reason, or anyone’s desire to be part of the natural cycle of life.  

Short Q1 history and the impacts on the DFW

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Last modified: April 14, 2015