Montana voters recently voted in an extreme anti-wildlife and public lands state Legislature. They also voted in Greg Gianforte as our next governor, thus ending the checks and balances we had enjoyed over the past 16 years.
What this action will allow can be seen by the past history of the new governor. With a lifetime score of 5% and a 2019 score of 3% with the League of Conservation Voters, Gianforte has little regard for conservation; rather, he has voted consistently against wilderness, roadless areas, alternative green energy and wildlife. Gianforte is a trapper; he has stated that some of his fondest memories were trapping with his daughter. His religious beliefs that women are subservient to men make clear the unevolved nature of his thinking. They also make clear that science will have no place in this administration.
Most disturbing of all is his stance on wolves and grizzly bears. He wants them persecuted. Look for him working with the Legislature to create bounties on wolves, allowing the destruction of this invaluable species, all to appease livestock interests and the trophy hunting industry as well as upholding the ignorance of those who want to return to a time when predators were slaughtered without restraint.
The danger of Gianforte is clear and present. He will stack the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission with people against predators, grizzlies and all species that trappers desire despite the fact that their numbers are dwindling precariously.
He will clearly work to sell off and privatize public lands and, working with an eager Legislature, will expand trappers’ already dominant position on our public lands, threatening people, pets and wildlife.
This will call for two very important checks that citizens can have. We must work locally in cities and counties to create regulations that protect lands in the urban wildland interface from trapping. Second, the Biden administration must provide the check on this outrageous form of looting our public lands. Executive orders can ban trapping on public lands. The administration can work with federal agencies to put lands off-limits to recreational trapping despite Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The administration can restore protections for wolves and grizzlies.
Citizens should make clear that bounties for wolves are completely unacceptable in Montana. This will require organizing, joining forces and making our voices clear. Over and over we see the value of our public lands and the gift of diversity of species that Montana is proud and fortunate to still possess. Yet like children with matches, this governor-elect and the Legislature seem determined to destroy that which makes our state great, enshrined in our Constitution: “We the people of Montana grateful to God for the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, the vastness of our rolling plains …” Ignoring these intrinsic values, they will push for motorized recreation deep into our forests, exploitation of our wildlife and the decimation of our public lands and waters — wildlife habitat — for industrial use.
Wolves belong in Montana, they are essential in our fight to end chronic wasting disease and remove the threat of feral pigs invading from the north. They are invaluable to healthy elk and deer populations and the regeneration of riparian habitats.
The votes are in and it was a bad year indeed for wildlife in Montana. But we still have a voice and a vote. Legislators would be wise to consider the emotion and passion our citizens have for our public lands and wildlife.
It’s time that Greg Gianforte hears that loud and clear!
Stephen Capra is executive director of Footloose Montana.
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