Juliet Giarraputo

There are many unique ecosystems that can be found in Montana, and every native animal contributes to them in some way. Our state has faced intense scrutiny and debate over the recent wolf hunting and trapping laws that have been presented to our legislature.

It was devastating to discover the poor hunting laws in place here and the threat they pose to our wildlife. Wolves are thrilling animals, their ability to work incongruously with each other is rarely seen in other species, at least not to the same extent. For many years we saw our wolf population rapidly decline, nearing the point of extinction in Montana.

In the 1990s though, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone, and so began our path to recovery. Right now we have an estimated 1100 wolves in our state. Those numbers are facing rapid decline due to many of the bills passed, and being passed. We must protect Montana’s wolves and preserve our wildlife for the future generations. One way to do so is to contact your local legislators and request that they vote against the passage of House Bill 372.

House Bill 372 proposes that we make citizen hunting/trapping the primary way of wildlife management in Montana, which will cause irreparable damage to our state. We currently have laws that protect citizen’s right to hunt, and adding more laws causes unnecessary havoc within our legislature due to the bill’s need to pass a constitutional strict scrutiny legal test.

If this bill passes, FWP workers will be powerless in the field because hunters will claim their constitutional rights. If we add this bill to the Montana Constitution our government will see severe financial losses because the rights included in the document extend to all citizens of the U.S. resulting in people from out of state not having to pay non-resident fees when hunting. Which are always more expensive than resident fees. Not to mention the conflict within the state this creates.

Separating our Democratic and Republican parties even more, this bill could become extremely controversial throughout the whole country.

Bill 372 will limit wildlife management in Montana to the point that our ecosystems will come tumbling down. First of all, how will wildlife management programs, that don’t rely on killing, suffer? If citizen harvest is the main way that we manage our state's biodiversity, will other programs lose funding or be cut all together?

Without funding, the possible lack of habitat improvement and removal of invasive species could lead to our lands becoming toxic, our fauna having unnecessary mutations, and our plants disappearing forever. Animal relocation would become rarer, and we would be forced to kill many innocent creatures.

What do we really know about the possible effects of this bill? When HBs 224 and 225 passed, Montana found itself in a tricky situation, faced with a longer wolf hunting season, and the legal use of snares it was looking dour for the future of our wolves.

If HB 372 passes, hope for our wolves will be diminished and we will lose a vital animal in our ecosystems. To learn more and discover how you can help go to footloosemontana.org.