Just days after the Dec. 8 Wyoming’s Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resource (TRW) committee meeting, Sen. Ogden Driskill posted the following note on Facebook: “I have …
Just days after the Dec. 8 Wyoming’s Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resource (TRW) committee meeting, Sen. Ogden Driskill posted the following note 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.”
Driskill included the words “leash-free.” Why? Wyoming citizens working for trap reform have never used those words. We 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 has been directly influenced by the opinions of Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner Mike Schmid.
Schmid publicly broadcast similar statements against trapping reform at other public platforms. In 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.”
In this commissioner’s view, buying a license and adhering to a season is enough regulation. In his opinion there is no room for conversation that would create trap-free zones on public land. Why should a trapper’s family time be at the expense of others’ family time on public land? This is not action taken against trappers, but 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.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has shown it is listening and concerned about Wyoming citizens. WGFD leadership and staff have collaborated with Wyoming citizens and organizations, addressing trap reform and public safety. At its November meeting, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of trap reform, specifically mandatory trapper education and trap setbacks. Why at the TRW committee meeting was Schmid, the only commissioner to vote against trap reform, given unlimited time by Driskill to derail the topic and shift the conversation away from the WGFD trap reform recommendations?
For those watching the TRW committee meeting, it had been a long day. Topics ranged from amending gaming commission bylaws to requests that roadkill go for pet food. Testimony was welcomed from the public throughout the day and heard without a time limit. Senators and representatives in attendance appeared engaged, asked good questions, worked through issues, improved the wording of amendments and made progress.
WGFD’s draft reforms were near the last agenda item. Sen. Driskill instructed speakers on trapping reform they had a three-minute limit enforced by use of a timer with an alarm. Many on the committee acted disinterested in testimony given by constituents. With some exceptions, it appeared most on the committee had made up their mind in advance about the recommendations. Schmid’s tactics worked because not one Travel, Recreation and Wildlife 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 WGFD that clearly make Wyoming’s public lands safer? Documentation on the Game and Fish website reports 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.
Regarding trap setbacks in picnic areas and campgrounds, why are these legislators ignoring a public safety recommendation? The public has a right to picnic, camp, launch a boat, 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 that right. The TRW committee has a responsibility to the people they market to, visitors who contribute to Wyoming’s economy, to provide trap-free opportunities for recreation and enjoyment.
We ask in 2021 the TRW committee revisit these recommendations from the Game and Fish Commission. We ask the TRW to be prepared to openly and fairly discuss not only trapper education and trap setbacks, but also trap-free zones for recreation and mandatory reporting of ALL animals trapped, including domestic and wild. We ask the committee commit to working with all interested parties to make positive progress toward ensuring safety on public lands with respect for and consideration of all public land users. We are all Wyoming neighbors.
(Karen Zoller is the president of www.wytrapfreemontcounty.org. and is based in Lander.)