Letter to the Editor
March 30, 2023
Montana’s state Legislature is proposing a host of extreme anti-wildlife bills despite widespread, diverse, strong, and credible opposition to these unnecessary measures. The onslaught on wildlife by locally elected officials began in 2021 and continues in this legislative session with the introduction of bills that go from bad to worse.
Snaring and night shooting wolves, placing bounties on a hunt, loosening stipulations for killing grizzly bears, hounding black bears - the list goes on. Proposed laws spread misinformation about wildlife, are ignorant of the effects predators have on prey, and show an overall lack of understanding about the complexity of natural environments in Montana.
The methods are also at odds with the principles of ethical hunting which “does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage.” Wolf management was working in Montana. None of it made everyone happy, but we maintained ethics, and did not try to drive wolf numbers to bare minimums. Montana now clearly wants to do the same thing to grizzlies: kill as many as possible as quickly as possible. Senate Bill 295 makes that clear - even on public land.
The wild creatures that roam our landscapes have intrinsic value and are deserving of such respect, first and foremost.
Wildlife is a public trust in which everyone has a legitimate interest, not just those who consume it. Those in elected positions should be acting in the interest of their long-term protection, not enacting laws to ease indiscriminate killing. Practically speaking, these remarkable animals also drive our local economy. Tourists bring dollars to Montana to see our unparalleled wildlife and to enjoy their spectacular habitats.
As a top destination for wildlife-watching tourists, in 2019 the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research found that 12.6 million visitors generated $3.76 billion in revenue to Montana, funding 53,120 jobs and saving Montanans $626 in lowered household taxes.
These anti-wildlife bills create barriers to the responsible management of wildlife, harm Montana’s economy and are nothing shy of unethical. FWP is listening to a small group of people with extreme views on wildlife, who act like it’s 1900. That’s not realistic and won’t be tolerated by people who value wildlife. Civic engagement in a democracy is always necessary, but vigilance in the remaining weeks of Montana’s legislative session is especially crucial.
Please tell your Representative, Fish and Wildlife Commissioners, and the Governor’s office to oppose these anti-wildlife bills and restore Montana’s science-based approach to wildlife management. Calls and correspondence in opposition of SB 295, an extreme anti-grizzly bear bill that would open killing to a lot of bears, is needed immediately. Montanans are better than what these bills represent, let’s demand better of our elected representatives.
Nathan Varley, president of Bear Creek Council.