Just days after the Dec. 8, 2020, Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources committee meeting, Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, posted this on Facebook: “I have been recently attacked by the ‘Leash-free’ anti-trapping crowd in Wyoming about my stance opposing dogs off leashes in our wild areas on public lands,” he wrote in the Dec. 11 post.
Driskill included the words “leash-free.” We wonder why. Wyoming citizens working for trap reform have never proposed a “leash-free” state. We have never suggested, or asked for, a ban on trapping. If citizens voice opinions about trapping that differ from his, is that an attack? It seems likely that Driskill’s suggested persecution, the words “leash-free” and the misrepresentation of trap reform as anti-trapping have been directly influenced by the opinions of his friend, Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner Mike Schmid.
Schmid broadcasts similar statements against trapping reform at other public platforms. At the April 2020 commission meeting, Schmid said, “One group is regulated and that is trappers — limited by seasons, have to buy a license. Whatever they do on their public land, at least they enjoy it. We sell 2,500 licenses and that represents a lot of happy times, family times. I will not support more regulations on the trappers.”
Apparently, in his view, buying a license and adhering to a season is enough regulation. His actions also suggest that there is no room for conversation that would create trap-free zones on public land for the 99.5% of Wyoming’s population that does not trap. Why should a trapper’s “family time” be at the expense of others’ family time on our public land?
This is not action that would be taken against trappers, but rather action taken for the sake of public safety on public land. Implementing trap-free zones is progress on an issue that requires leadership and action.
Game and Fish has shown it is listening and concerned about Wyoming citizens. At the November Game and Fish commission meeting, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of trap reform, specifically mandatory trapper education and trap set-backs.
Why then at the TRW committee meeting was Schmid, the lone commissioner to vote against trap reform, given unlimited time, granted by Driskill, to derail the topic and shift the conversation away from the Game and Fish Department trap reform recommendations brought to the TRW committee?
For those watching the TRW committee meeting, it had been a long day. Topics ranged from amending gaming commission bylaws to requests that roadkill be used for pet food. Public testimony was welcomed throughout these topics and heard in its entirety without a time limit.
The Game and Fish Department’s draft trapping reforms were near the last agenda item. Driskill instructed speakers on trapping reform they had a three-minute limit, and Schmid’s obstructionist tactics apparently worked because not one TRW legislator would stand up and take action for trap reform.
Does the TRW committee believe it is in the best interest of the public to ignore recommendations from Game and Fish professionals that would clearly make Wyoming’s public lands safer?
Documentation on the department’s website reports that mandatory hunter education reduced hunting accidents by “well over 50%.” Why is the TRW committee taking “no action” on mandatory trapper education? Wouldn’t the benefits of a 50% reduction in non-target trapping incidents, including family pets, big game and other wildlife, be a positive for the public? The same is true for the possibility of a 50% decrease in conflicts between trappers and recreationists.
And why are these legislators ignoring a public safety recommendation regarding trap setbacks in picnic areas and campgrounds? The public has a right to picnic, camp, launch a boat or hike a trail with their family and pets, and view wildlife on public lands with some reasonable expectation of safety. It remains a right, even though the TRW denies the public access to that right.
The TRW committee has a responsibility to provide trap-free opportunities for recreation and enjoyment.
We ask that in 2021 the TRW committee revisit trapping recommendations from the Game and Fish commission. We ask the committee to be prepared to openly and fairly discuss the importance of trapper education, trap setbacks, trap-free zones for recreation, and mandatory reporting of all animals trapped, domestic and wild. We ask that the committee commit to working with all interested parties to make progress toward ensuring safety on our public lands with respect for and consideration of all public land users.
We are all Wyoming neighbors.
Karen Zoller is a founding member of WY TRAP FREE-mont County, a grassroots organization advocating for trap reform based in Lander. Her dog, Mac, was killed by a hidden power snare on public land while running with her. The views expressed here are solely her own.