Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Saturday, August 10, 2019

MSA comments to FW Commission on Shoulder Seasons.

Shane Colton, Chair
Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission
1420 E. Sixth Ave.
Helena, MT 59624

RE: Elk management

Dear Chairman Colton and Commissioners:

The Montana Sportsmen Alliance is the voice of reason for many people throughout Montana.  MSA has been active throughout several legislative sessions, FWP Commission meetings and many other activities where the sportsmen and women of Montana need a voice. We are avid hunters, anglers and conservationists who are deeply engaged in Montana’s sporting traditions.

We have serious concerns about the direction Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is taking in elk management. In particular, we are disturbed that FWP is slowly reneging on the initial agreement with sportsmen and sportswomen to follow the performance criteria in the shoulder seasons.

These seasons have performance criteria to ensure they do not become a replacement for general season harvest of elk. That’s stated clearly throughout the document in the criteria. They were also meant to be a short-term measure to address elk herds that are chronically over the objective population targets.  Other problems, as expected, the most accessible portions of hunting districts have taken the brunt of the shoulder season pressure, leaving less elk on the landscape during the archery and general season. There are plenty of examples to cite regarding this activity. 

However, it appears in certain situations that FWP staff has little regard for the criteria that were initially agreed to for shoulder seasons. The most egregious example of this is found in FWP Region 2, where several districts are actually under the objective population and are showing poor calf recruitment. Yet FWP staff there is recommending a continuation of these shoulder seasons. We question why this is occurring and would offer that it doesn’t warrant doing.

It is irresponsible to be hunting elk herds below objective for six months of the year. This is exactly what we got away from well over a decade ago, when we abandoned special late season hunts to put an emphasis on the general rifle season as the primary tool to meet our elk management needs. That decision was based on ethics, sound science and a respect for our longstanding Montana tradition of fair-chase hunting. Montana’s five-week general rifle season is the most liberal in the West, and hunters from around the country look to it as a model.

Additional seasons outside of the general season should meet certain criteria as a way to supplement general season harvest, disburse elk from private lands and reduce game damage to crops. Game damage and management hunts on private lands are required under state law to occur on lands with reasonable public access during the general season.  That’s meant to support effective, whole elk management.

We expect FWP to honor the agreement it made with the hunters of Montana and conduct a thorough analysis of the shoulder seasons to eliminate all of the districts where the hunts are not meeting the criteria. We are committed to working with landowners to bring about more effective elk management, and we know that will require significant antlerless elk harvest during the general season.

The leadership group at the Montana Sportsmen Alliance strongly believes our agency, FWP needs to conduct a thorough analysis of shoulder season results based on the performance criteria.  These are incredibly important public trust resources that demand that level of attention.  We don’t want to see the shoulder seasons become a way to clean up the scraps after the commercial outfitters have profitted from them during the general season.  We at MSA say loud and clear; Enough is Enough. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

The Voice of Reason,

Montana Sportsmen Alliance

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Press Release - Crazy Mountains Lawsuit Filed

Forward from the EMWH Newsletter
For immediate release  June 10, 2019 
Contacts:  Kathryn QannaYahu, Enhancing Montana’s Wildlife and Habitat,, 406-579-7748 
Matthew Bishop, attorney, Western Environmental Law Center,, 406-324-8011 
Katie McKalip, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers,, 406-240-926
Michael Kauffman, attorney,, 406-495-8080  

Public Land Advocates: Forest Service Must Reopen Public Trails in Montana’s Crazy Mountains 

Coalition of sportsmen-conservationists contends the Forest Service is abdicating its duty to uphold and
defend public access to historical trails

HELENA, Mont. – A coalition of conservation-based groups filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Forest Service to maintain traditional public access opportunities in the Crazy Mountains of Montana. The coalition includes Friends of the Crazy Mountains, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Enhancing Montana’s Wildlife and Habitat, and Skyline Sportsmen.They are represented by the Western Environmental Law Center and the Drake Law Firm. 
The groups’ challenge hinges on the Forest Service’s continued lack of progress and unresponsiveness in maintaining the public’s right to access public lands and waters in the Crazy Mountains. In February, the coalition submitted a letter to the Forest Service summarizing concerns over public access in the Crazies and notifying the agency of its intent to sue should access issues fail to be resolved. 
"The upper levels of the Forest Service chose not to respond or address our local public access concerns and repeated complaints of obstruction,” said Brad Wilson of Friends of the Crazy Mountains, a retired Park County assistant road supervisor and deputy sheriff. “Due to the Forest Service’s negligence, we had no choice but to appeal to the court.”
The coalition contends that the public, has longstanding and permanent public access to Montana’s Crazy Mountains. The lawsuit charges that until recently the Forest Service supported and maintained the public’s access to the trails, but certain Forest Service leaders now are abdicating their duty to protect and preserve public access there. The suit specifies four trails, two on the west side and two on the east side of the mountain range, that are mapped as public trails, are well known and have been traditionally used by the public but where certain landowners now are illegally and impermissibly attempting to deny public access (Porcupine Lowline #267, Elk Creek #195, East Trunk #115/136 and Sweet Grass #122). 
Hearing about attempts to obstruct public access obstruction in the Crazy Mountains, I began over 1,100 hours of documentation, FOIA requests to the Forest Service, and historical research that verified these trails are public,” said Kathryn QannaYahu of EMWH. “Especially compelling were the county railroad grant deeds of private land, containing the words 'easement in the public.' What I found angered me, because the public has easement interests on these four trails, which the Service isn't protecting on our behalf. On the contrary, they're allowing certain landowners to attempt to obstruct public access and undermine my and the public's ability to access historic trials in the Crazy Mountains.”
In a response to Sen. Steve Daines dated Oct. 2, 2015, Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson wrote, “The Forest Service maintains that it holds unperfected prescriptive rights on this trail system, as well as up Sweet Grass Creek to the north based on a history of maintenance with public funds and historic and continued public and administrative use.”
We have been transparent in our goal of restoring public access to the Crazy Mountains,” said Tony Schoonen of the Skyline Sportsmen and a member of the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame. “Our coalition has committed substantial work to researching the situation in the Crazies, and we plan to continue pursuing this goal in the public eye. While it’s hardly surprising that some politicians and out-of-state bureaucrats are seeking to steal access to our land, we refuse to let it go without a fight.”
The Forest Service is bound to do its job and maintain access to these trails,” said Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center. “It’s just that simple. This means managing and maintaining the trails, replacing and reinstalling national forest trail markers and signs, and ensuring public access on our public trails in the Crazy Mountains.”
In the words of the Forest Service’s own attorneys regarding one of these trails: “Indeed, it would be irresponsible of the Forest Service to simply abandon these easement rights or fail to reflect their existence in the travel plan simply to avoid the souring of relationships between landowners and recreational groups.”
These trails are public and were managed that way for many years. We stand with those hardworking Forest Service employees committed to responsibly managing our public lands and waters,” concluded John Sullivan, chair of the Montana chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Forest Service leadership has stated that these trails are public, yet somewhere along the line their tune changed. We have no intention of standing idly by while this faction engages in the very behavior it has deemed irresponsible. We will fight for the public’s right to access these public lands and waters, which are central to our Montana way of life.”
Photos and map of the trails are available here.  

I want to thank those individuals who have subscribed and contributed, which has assisted in my research on the Crazy Mountains over the years, more recently Montana Sportsmen Alliance, Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Dan Mahn, Nancy Ostlie, Greg Munther, Gayle Joslin, Donald, Stein, Paul Olson, Hallie Rugheimer, Mike Korn, Brad Wilson, John Daggett, Dwayne Garner and James McGehee.

I still have some research to finish, if you would like to contribute towards these efforts, it would be greatly appreciated.

Click to be a Contributor or Subscriber to
Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
Helena, MT

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Crosscut: An Idaho Republican is asking the right questions about Northwest salmon

An Idaho Republican is asking the right questions about Northwest salmon
·         Tom France
/ May 14, 2019
The Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Pasco in 2013. There is a renewed push to remove Ice Harbor and three other dams on the Snake River to save wild salmon runs. (Photo by Bob Brawday/The Tri-City Herald via AP)
Despite $16 billion in spending on salmon recovery over the past 30 years, wild stocks of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River drainage continue to collapse. An ecosystem that not only sustains other species — like the southern resident orca — but people as well is quickly unraveling.

At a recent conference in Boise, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, accurately summarized the growing peril facing salmon and steelhead runs, as well as the financial challenges confronting the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the region’s principal electricity provider.
“There is a looming problem, and it is approaching quicker than anyone might think,” he said. “It is kind of like the side-view mirror on your car: Objects may be closer than they appear.”

He’s right about Bonneville. The agency faces unprecedented pressure from a rapidly changing energy market. As a result, BPA has gone from selling the region’s cheapest electricity to its most expensive. This inversion could very well cause an exodus of customers when their contracts expire in the 2020s.

If this occurs, Bonneville’s ability to maintain and modernize the dams and power lines it owns throughout the Northwest will be compromised.

Simpson is equally right about the region’s salmon and steelhead. The crushing impact of the Lower Snake River dams on wild salmon and steelhead has been evident since the last of the four dams was completed in 1975. Over the past 40 years, runs of tens of thousands of wild fish have declined to thousands and then hundreds and now dozens. Simpson is the first political leader in years — Republican or Democratic — to recognize that dramatic changes need to occur if the extinction of many runs is to be avoided.

The seriousness of Simpson’s observations is underscored by his political record. He is a conservative Republican representing one of the nation’s most conservative states, yet the plight of the Snake River’s salmon and BPA’s finances have moved him to action.

While Simpson made clear he is still researching the best solutions, he also told his Boise audience that time is short for both wild salmon and BPA. In fact, he emphasized that restoring Bonneville to financial health and restoring salmon to healthy populations must go hand in hand. While specifics await the introduction of a bill, it seems likely that his legislation will seek to relieve Bonneville of some of its financial burdens and consider the option that has long paralyzed Northwest politicians — restoring the Lower Snake River by removing four dams that have severed Idaho’s pristine spawning habitat from wild fish. If removing dams is part of the Simpson prescription, so too will be transition funds to aid those who have made good faith investments in the current system, primarily farmers and shippers, and the communities that support them. 
The question now is whether Simpson’s leadership will help restore other endangered commodities — bipartisanship and a regional commitment to wild salmon recovery. Moving forward will require much the same cross-aisle collaboration from Northwest Republicans and Democrats that secured the congressional appropriations to build the dams in the first place.
That we can save salmon — and orca — has never been clearer, and Simpson has set the proposition on the table for governors, House members and senators of both parties to consider. As wind and solar generation has grown, the relative importance of the energy produced by the Northwest’s dams has diminished.  As energy conservation has taken hold, the energy demands of the region are static even as electric-generating capacity has grown. These are the factors that have destabilized BPA, but they can be addressed even while taking the worst dams — the four Lower Snake dams — off line and restoring wild salmon to the Columbia River basin and the lower Snake River.

Restoring wild salmon and low-cost, clean energy: These are goals that vast majorities of citizens in Washington, Oregon and Idaho want achieved. Working together, across party lines and through the governors’ offices and the region’s congressional delegations, the Northwest can ensure that wild salmon once again are found from the mouth of the Columbia to the cold mountain rivers of Idaho and where low-cost, clean electricity power a dynamic economy.  

Tom France is the regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Northern Rockies, Prairies, and Pacific Regional Center.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Coalition thank you for veto of HB 265

May 24, 2019
The Honorable Steve Bullock
Montana State Capitol
P.O. Box 200801
Helena, MT 59620-0801
RE: Coalition thank you for veto of HB 265
Dear Gov. Bullock,
Our organizations that make up the Montana Sporting Coalition represent tens of thousands of hunters, anglers and recreationists. We are deeply committed to conserving and enjoying our public lands, waters and wildlife resources. We’re passionate conservationists who work on key policies that make Montana such an incredible place for sportsmen, sportswomen and recreational users who love wildlife.
That’s why we’re deeply appreciative to you for vetoing HB 265, a bill that would have required state Land Board approval for conservation easements under the Habitat Montana program. You are well aware of the issue, having gone to the Montana Supreme Court last year to defend this program. But from our perspective, it’s important to point out the tremendous benefits for Montanans that Habitat Montana has had, and will continue to have because of this veto.
Habitat Montana’s sterling record of benefiting landowners, protecting wildlife habitat and providing public hunting access for Montanans has resulted in more than 880,000 acres of lands protected for wildlife. These are targeted, high-value lands that provide essential winter range for big game, include habitat for game birds, and are important for non-game wildlife species. They also provide public hunting access for all Montanans, and they’re a big reason Montana hunters enjoy world-class opportunities every year.
Our coalition of more than a dozen hunting and angling organizations was formed to maintain Habitat Montana, and we saw the serious threat that this bill posed to its future. While our groups have diverse interests in terms of fish and wildlife species that we work to conserve and enhance, we all share an understanding that habitat is essential to that work. Habitat Montana has for over three decades been essential to providing that habitat through fee title purchases and conservation easements with willing landowners.
Requiring an extra layer of uncertainty into conservation easement projects that have been through two years of review and been approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission would have made landowners think twice before they even begin working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to craft an easement that works for their agricultural operation, wildlife and the hunters of Montana.
Thanks to your veto, Habitat Montana will continue to work to benefit farmers and ranchers, wildlife and hunters. These investments will be essential to continuing our agricultural heritage, as well as our sporting heritage. This is about future generations, and their ability to continue to enjoy what we have. We are deeply appreciative for your veto and are hopeful that we can continue to work with our farmers and ranchers to build on our wildlife legacy and build the strong working relationship between sportsmen, sportswomen and landowners.
Robert Sanders
Ducks Unlimited
Clayton Elliott
Montana Trout Unlimited
Scott Laird
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Brian Solan
Montana Wild Sheep Foundation
Marlon Clapham
Montana Bowhunter’s Association
Tom France
National Wildlife Federation
John Sullivan
Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Chad Harvey
Pheasants Forever
Nick Gevock
Montana Wildlife Federation
John Borgreen
Montana Sportsmen Alliance

Monday, May 20, 2019

HCN Designing for access in outdoor spaces doesn’t mean paving pathways

Designing for access in outdoor spaces doesn’t mean paving pathways

A reckoning with assumptions about who wants to spend time in nature.

Chris Clasby poses outside a trail access point 10 minutes from his home. He had used the trail frequently, until rock and a small erosion ditch blocked the already narrow gate; now, he hikes and hunts elsewhere.
Matthew Roberts for High Country News
Chris Clasby is a lifelong Montana resident, former team roper and steer wrestler, and an avid angler and hunter. He also has quadriplegia, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be limited to paved pathways when he heads out into the woods. People without disabilities, he told me, tend to assume that he “wants to hunt from a warm vehicle, shoot at a perfect animal out the window, and be served a warm meal while watching TV as someone else field-dresses the animal.”
“Hunters with disabilities, just like their non-disabled counterparts, have the same expectation — and desire — of strenuous preparation and planning, uncertain success, discomfort, and unfruitful time expended as any other hunter in the most remote backcountry.”
But Clasby isn’t just along for the ride. The experience of the hunt, which in his case includes taking along a companion who can field-dress Clasby’s quarry, is of paramount importance. “Hunters with disabilities, just like their non-disabled counterparts, have the same expectation — and desire — of strenuous preparation and planning, uncertain success, discomfort, and unfruitful time expended as any other hunter in the most remote backcountry,” Clasby said.
Like Clasby, many Westerners form their sense of self around a relationship with the outdoors, whether it’s a weeklong hunting trek into the backcountry or regular walks on a trail winding through urban green spaces. And, of course, having a disability doesn’t prevent a person from seeking the solace or thrill of spending time in nature. That’s why small, everyday design choices in infrastructure and trails that open up the outdoors to a wider variety of users are more important than their apparent simplicity might suggest. Rethinking outdoor access through the lens of disability forces a reckoning with assumptions about who the outdoors is for, while at the same time widening the inclusiveness of Western communities.
One of the biggest difficulties Clasby has encountered while advocating for outdoor access is that some people tend to evaluate a project’s success based on how many people have used it rather than the quality of the experience it creates. For example, some proponents were disappointed in the small number of people who took advantage of a private ranch near Lolo, Montana, after the owner opened it to hunters with disabilities. That’s missing the point, Clasby told me: “It’s not the number of hunters, but the value of the experience to each hunter” that matters. The ranch is within driving distance of Missoula, with good access and plenty of wildlife, factors that make it a good place for a hunting trip that doesn’t require hiking miles into a wilderness area. “We all want to be able to pursue the things that are part of our identity,” Clasby said.
And design features that take into account access for people with disabilities can be surprisingly simple. Julie Tickle, who works with DREAM Adaptive, a non-profit that makes skiing and paddleboarding more accessible for people with disabilities, currently advises on a mountain biking trail network outside Columbia Falls, Montana, called Cedar Flats. Collaborators’ initial response was that making it accessible would be too costly and “special.” But the changes required for a three-wheeled mountain bike are small and mostly inexpensive: minor shifts in choke points on the trail, for example, or easing the tightness of switchbacks. Such projects can increase access in many areas throughout the West.
Brenden Dalin uses the trail he helped design near Missoula, Montana. Dalin is an avid fisherman, hunter and skier.
Matthew Roberts for High Country News
WHEN YOU VISIT ROCK CREEK CONFLUENCE, a park just east of Missoula, Montana, it’s hard to believe that busy I-90 is right over your shoulder. Rock Creek, a blue-ribbon fishing stream, gurgles down to meet the Clark Fork River, and trails wind through 300 acres of forest. It’s an exceptionally scenic recreational spot, and one that’s intentionally being redesigned for disability access.
Now, thanks to that redesign, which he helped lead, Brenden Dalin can traverse a greater proportion of the property. Dalin is a quintessential Western recreationist: He’s an avid fisherman, hunter and skier who recently graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in recreation management. He has paraplegia, and during an internship last year with Five Valleys Land Trust, which owns Rock Creek, he directed crews extending its wheelchair-accessible gravel trail. He also points to the importance of a redesigned entrance gate: It’s now large enough to allow wheelchairs in, but small enough to keep ATVs out.
The land trust describes Rock Creek as a “living laboratory” — a crucial perspective, Dalin said. Managers there can build and test trails, signs, gates and other features that make it easier for people with disabilities to navigate. Because it’s privately owned, the trust can try out innovative and sometimes experimental designs without going through a lengthy bureaucratic process. Successful changes at Rock Creek can serve as a model, Dalin told me, giving other developers, and perhaps public-land managers, a sense of what’s possible.
I asked Dalin if designing for disability, as he and others at Rock Creek are doing, might represent an emerging trend in outdoor recreation, a growing awareness that something as simple as thoughtful gate and trail design is just as important as, for example, the development of advanced prosthetics. “If it is a trend,” he said, “it’s about time.”
Antonia Malchik is a freelance writer. She is the author of A Walking Life, a nonfiction book about walking, and lives in Whitefish, Montana. Email High Country News at or submit a letter to the editor.

Illegal Poaching

America’s Poaching Epidemic

Illegal Poaching Supplies an International Black Market for American Animal Parts

Think poaching is a problem only in the jungles of Asia, the savannas of Africa? Think again. Poaching is alive and well in America’s forests, oceans, and mountains, straining the resources of our nation’s game wardens and other law enforcement officers and decimating animal species at alarming rates.
Most Americans are acutely aware of the things that threaten species populations and animal habitats; things like pollution, climate change, overdevelopment.
But many are simply unaware of the fact that everyday, our state and federal game wardens fight another vicious adversary that is putting additional pressure on certain species populations…

It’s Happening in America’s Backyard

From tigers in Asia to elephants in Africa, wildlife crimes only seem to make the news when it concerns rare and exotic species and high-value animal parts like rhino horns.
But there’s no need to cross the ocean to find the pervasive and persistent problem of poaching and links to an international black market. Poaching for specific high-demand animal parts to feed the demand of a nefarious underworld of dealers, merchants and buyers is widespread in the U.S., its fingers extending to nearly all parts of the country.
And with any criminal enterprise, it’s the money that supplies the motive. For example, the American black bear has long been poached for its hide, paws, gallbladder, and bile, mainly due to their use in Eastern medicine. (Gallbladder and bile are often used to treat diseases of the heart and kidneys.) Undercover operations have found single dried bear gallbladders fetching as much as $30,000 on the black market.
But it’s not just the American black bear that’s under siege. The horns of ram sheep can sell for more than $20,000 on the black market. The bighorn sheep, which largely resides in the area between the San Jacinto Mountains and the U.S.-Mexico border, has been on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list since 1998. Although land development and disease have been the major contributors to the dwindling of this species, poaching is only putting more nails in the coffin. These sheep are usually found in remote areas, making it a challenge for game wardens to patrol and monitor poaching activity.
Shark fins are also highly valued in Eastern cultures, making poaching off the coast of California a major problem, despite the fact that selling or distributing shark fins is illegal under California’s Shark Fin Law. When a great deal of money is at stake, the crimes continue. A single shark fin can sell for $500 in China, where it is used to make shark fin soup, a delicacy. It is estimated that there are more than 100 million shark deaths every year due to shark finning: the practice of catching a shark, slicing off only the coveted fins, then tossing the animal back overboard to die a slow and painful death

New Laws and Big Fines in the Crackdown to Prevent Poaching

The Internet has only exacerbated the problem of poaching by creating a global marketplace in which criminals can attempt to maintain anonymity. But non-profits are teaming up with government to fight back.
In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), working with organizations like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), partnered with state agencies and international conservation law enforcement agencies to launch Operation Wild Web. In a major crackdown on violators of the Endangered Species Act, Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and other federal, state and international laws, Operation Wild Web uncovered endangered animals casually being offered up for sale by “virtual poachers.”
The operation revealed how otherwise innocent and innocuous social e-commerce sites were being used as a marketplace for the illegal sale of protected species, with, among many other examples, an endangered jaguar being sold on Craigslist for $19,000.
But state agencies have also stayed busy passing new legislation and have wasted no time in making efforts to enforce these laws …
New Mexico - For example, in New Mexico, game wardens with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish investigate trophy poachers who kill many types of big game just for the head or horns, leaving the rest of the animal to rot. They investigate about 100 trophy poaching cases a year. Some of the animals targeted by poachers here include elk, bighorn sheep, ibex, and oryx.
Governor Susana Martinez signed legislation in April 2017 that now makes wasting game a felony, carrying a prison sentence of 18 months and a fine of $5,000.
Nevada - In Nevada, elk poaching is a serious issue that is met with equally serious fines and jail time. In April 2017, a man was required to pay a civil penalty of $20,000 for poaching an elk in southeastern Nevada. He was also required to serve five years of probation. Should he violate the terms of his probation, he will have to serve a 32-month prison sentence.
Oklahoma - Other states are also persistent in their efforts to curb poaching. For example, in December 2016, an Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation game warden investigated a complaint of deer poaching and successfully arrested three individuals who poached eight bucks and 14 deer illegally. It was discovered that the men were killing deer just for the thrill of it.
Maine - It’s also important to recognize that not all poaching is directed at our country’s big game. In Maine, a massive undercover operation led to the arrests of poachers of baby eels. The federal investigation, known as Operation Broken Glass (baby eels actually look like shards of glass), took down a massive poaching operation.
Maine is the only major legal market in the U.S. for baby eels, but their skyrocketing prices have led to an explosion of poaching operations.

Putting Poachers Behind Bars Can Save Officers’ Lives

Unlike legal hunters, who are active participants in wildlife conservation efforts and abide by laws and regulations in place to manage game populations, poachers are criminals who act with total disregard for conservation laws and whose primary motivation is making a payday for themselves. All too often, these are violent and desperate people, and being armed with a hunting rifle when approached in a desolate wilderness area can make for a deadly scenario for officers enforcing conservation laws
In 2016, a California game warden was shot at by two suspected poachers when he attempted to make a traffic stop. The officer was not injured. He chose to wait for backup before attempting to pursue the suspects, as he was patrolling alone in the remote area.
Just months earlier, Texas executed a man who shot and killed a game warden during a shootout nine years prior. The man was suspected of hunting illegally when a game warden spotted him and gave chase. After a 90-minute car chase, the poacher engaged the pursuing officer, shooting and killing him.
For game wardens in many parts of the country, disrupting poaching operations is the most crucial part of the job – and a crucial part of ensuring the criminal element isn’t given free run of America’s protected wilderness areas.