Trapping-ban fight resumes -Some want initiative repealed, others want it revised to exclude moles and gophers

January 17, 2004

The Associated Press
The Olympian

PAUL QUEARY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS OLYMPIA -- The long-festering dispute over revising Washington's voter-approved ban on most animal trapping surfaced again Friday, but the bitter divide between supporters and opponents means the ban will likely survive the session unchanged.
Voters banned most animal trapping and commercial sales of pelts in Initiative 713 in 2000, agreeing with animal-welfare activists that the practice is cruel and inhumane.

But almost immediately, the initiative's sponsors sought help from the Legislature to allow trapping of the moles and gophers that were provoking public outcry by tearing up suburban lawns, parks and golf courses.

Meanwhile, farmers, ranchers, timber companies and other largely rural trapping interests blocked that minor change, holding out for an outright repeal of an initiative they contend has let animals wreak havoc on crops, livestock, timber and other property.

A coalition of Republicans and rural Democrats passed a near-repeal of the initiative last year, but Gov. Gary Locke, a Democrat, vetoed it, arguing that it flouted the will of the voters.

On Friday, House Fisheries, Ecology and Parks Chairman Mike Cooper held a hearing on his latest proposal, which would expand the use of traps for moles and gophers and allow more trapping of coyotes to protect livestock and mountain beaver to protect timber, two of the largest concerns of the ban's opponents.

"We're going to keep working," said Cooper, D-Edmonds, who's considered an ally of the sponsors of I-713.

The backers of the initiative -- mostly the Humane Society of the United States -- endorsed Cooper's bill.

"We remain dedicated to reaching a fair compromise," said Katherine Bragdon, the society's director of ballot campaigns.

The bill also drew praise from park officials from around the state, who have struggled under the initiative's outright prohibition on trapping on public land for any reason.

A bigger revision

But it drew strong fire from the same rural interests who pushed through last year's near-repeal.

"What we need to do is restore the law to the way it is so that farmers and ranchers can protect their property," said Dan Fazio of the Washington State Farm Bureau. Cooper's plan would neglect many areas of agriculture where animals are a problem, such as beavers that attack orchards, Fazio said.

Fazio and other opponents of the initiative support a more sweeping revision of the trapping ban that has been introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate.

That measure, backed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, would restore some commercial sale of trapped fur, a key element for opponents of the ban because it drives down the cost of removing animals that threaten livestock and other property.

However, it's unlikely the two proposals can be reconciled, Cooper said. "The Senate bill in its current form won't pass the House," he said.

Although it enjoys the support of Locke's office, Cooper's bill, meanwhile, is unlikely to pass the Senate, where rural Republican lawmakers have more power. Unless an unlikely compromise can be reached, the matter will likely be dropped, Cooper said.

After his veto last year, Locke urged the Fish and Wildlife Commission to essentially turn a blind eye to mole and gopher violations of the trapping ban.

The commission declined to ignore the law, but its enforcement remains a low priority, said Steve Pozzanghera, the state's deputy assistant director of wildlife.

There has been little enforcement of the initiative since its passage in 2000, because the department's enforcement officers concentrate on poaching, fisheries violations and other higher- priority matters.

"Are we actively pursuing people engaged in unlawful mole trapping?" Pozzanghera said. "No."



In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site