House passes rollback of trapping ban


Associated Press
King 5 News

OLYMPIA, WA- A major rollback of Washington state's voter-approved ban on most animal trapping passed the House on Wednesday after weeks of behind-the-scenes wrangling.

The Senate was expected to approve minor changes to the measure and pass it on to Gov. Gary Locke's desk, where trapping opponents hope it becomes a victim of the veto.

The bill, Senate Bill 5179, would allow the use of body-gripping taps to address animal problems, for scientific research and for population control. The fur of animals trapped for those reasons could be sold.

That's a virtual repeal of Initiative 713, which banned the use of such traps to capture any mammal for recreation or commerce in fur. The initiative's backers argued the traps were cruel and inhumane. Nearly 55 percent of voters agreed, passing the initiative in November 2000.

But since the initiative's passage, complaints have increased of animals killing livestock, chewing up young trees, tearing up lawns, knawing holes in dikes, and feasting on juvenile salmon at hatcheries.

"Initiative 713 simply does not work," said Rep. Jim Buck, R-Joyce, before the bill passed 52-46.

Anti-trapping lawmakers tried to push for a lesser change to the initiative that would have exempted moles, gophers and mountain beaver - three of the most destructive species - from the trapping ban. That plan would also have allowed special trapping permits for parks, airports and other public lands, as well as for livestock owners trying to protect vulnerable animals during the calving and lambing seasons.

"It takes care of the airports and the golf courses and the soccer fields," said Rep. Mike Cooper, D-Edmonds. "We also listened to the needs of the farmers to protect their stock." But Cooper's proposal failed 47-51, leaving anti-trapping lawmakers fuming.

"We are now going to allow the wholesale selling of these animals' skins," said Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle.

The sale of fur is a key element in the debate, because allowing trappers to sell the pelts lowers landowners' costs for getting rid of the animals and generally increases the incentive to trap.

"It's absolutely a shame to throw away a resource like that," Buck said. The bill differs slightly from the Senate version in that it envisions the Department of Fish and Wildlife would be authorized to control trapping through a permitting system.

The vote was unusual because only nine of the House's 52 majority Democrats supported it. Most Democrats represent urban or suburban areas where the ban passed easily and its main effect was to increase the number of lawn-destroying moles and gophers.

Normally, when so many members of the majority party oppose a bill, it dies without ever coming to a vote.

"A tremendous, overwhelming number of Democrats did not want to overturn that initiative," said Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, who collected signatures for the trapping ban campaign.

However, three of those in favor were top Democrats in the House - Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam; Caucus Chairman Bill Grant, D-Yakima; and Floor Leader Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond - who were able to force a vote on the bill.

Locke has not decided whether to sign or veto the bill.

"We would probably wait until the bill came over here to review it and make a decision at that point," said Michael Marchand, Locke's spokesman.

Among those anxiously waiting for Locke's decision is Lisa Wathne, regional director for the Humane Society of the United States - the main backer of I-713.

"I wouldn't bet that the governor is going to sign this," Wathne said. "He has expressed concern about this initiative being repealed."

If Locke signs the bill, Wathne has promised a new initiative next year to restore the ban.


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