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Dear Montana Voters,

This November we have the opportunity to vote on some very important issues that will impact Montana and its residents. One such issue concerns the safety and exploitation of our public lands. I am writing to you today in support of Trap Free Public Lands ballot initiative I-177 in effort to explain why it is important to all Montanans. Lately I have seen pro-trapper groups use scare tactics to make people believe that this initiative will go after hunting next. This is absolutely not true and is a diversionary tactic used to misdirect voters to the truth. The best way to explain this is to compare trapping and hunting practices.

Let's consider hunting in Montana. I have lived here all my life and know that hunters do not purposefully shoot an animal to wound it. They sight in their rifles before going out and take great care to make the kill on the first shot. They also wear hunters orange to warn others that they are in the area. I have never seen a hunter lean a loaded weapon against a tree and leave it unattended for days, or even weeks at a time. They pay for a conservation and hunting license and follow the rules and regulations set forth by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. These regulations are very specific and involve the species and sex of the animal.

Now let's take a look at trapping. A license costs $29 and a trapper can set up to 50,000 unmarked traps on our public lands. When a trap is set it does not discriminate between species, age, or sex. These traps do not involve a quick death and are a loaded weapon for our companion animals and struggling species such as the wolverine, pine martin, and otter. The guidelines for trapping in Montana suggest checking these traps every couple of days. but is by no means mandatory. Using a trapper's term, some animals “twist off” to escape — which means they either chew their leg off or twist until it is free of the trap. Trappers who find animals alive in their traps often times stomp on them repeatedly until they are dead so that the pelt is not damaged by a gunshot or knife. They can leave these traps unmarked where we go for walks with our children and pets.

Trappers say that it is their freedom and right to set traps on our public lands and extract as many animals as they want for profit. What about the millions of other Montanans and their rights and freedoms to enjoy public lands and not have them exploited and devoid of life?

This is not the legacy of Montana.

Lets keep our public lands safe and diverse for all of us to enjoy.

Vote YES on I-177!

Jeff Blatnik, of Bozeman, holds a bachelor of science degree in biology with emphasis on ecology and population dynamics from Montana State University-Billings. For the last 10 years he has worked as an analytical chemist. He has two sons, ages 8 and 11, and they love to explore the outdoors together.

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