I-713 ‘ballot box biology’ is too extreme and risky

By ED OWENS

When farmers, cattle and sheep ranchers, commercial and sport fishers, scientists and scientific societies, timber companies, business, politicians and wildlife conservationists can all agree on something, it’s worth paying attention. Over 300 groups, organizations and prominent public opinion leaders have joined together to fight the latest “ballot box biology” effort in Washington state.

Ballot box biology is a recent phenomenon in American politics. The creation of self-styled animal rights groups, ballot box biology is the technique and rationale used by these organizations to impose their extreme ideologies on the wildlife management policies in those states that allow initiatives. On the surface, many of their proposals seem to have some degree of validity. However, when examined under the microscope of scientific inquiry, the agendas promoted by these animal rights organizations – which know little or nothing about the species and land they hope to dominate – are found tragically and, in some cases, dangerously lacking.

If the proposals being brought forward – like Initiative 713 – had any merit whatsoever, they could and should be submitted to the intense scrutiny, debate, and public disclosure that Washington’s wildlife issues normally undergo before the state Legislature, the Fish and Wildlife Commission and the scientists and professional wildlife managers of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. That’s the fair way, the Washington way.

We, as taxpayers, pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year to have professional and scientific resources available to us as tools for managing our wildlife. The scientists and professional managers we’re paying should be permitted to do the job we expect of them without the millstone of ballot box biology placing them between a rock and a hard place because of poorly conceived, badly written law.

Absent the structural support of sound wildlife biology, the agenda for managing Washington’s lands and animals being promoted by outside special interests intentionally sidesteps our wildlife management process. Instead they opt for the hard, direct sale to the public via the initiative process. Ballot box biology employs the same Madison Avenue techniques used to sell an unsuspecting public a host of unneeded, shoddily constructed items – from vegetable peelers to phone sex – that promise the world but, once they are bought, paid for and unwrapped, prove unsatisfying. Rarely if ever do they live up to the claims made in their hard-sell radio and television advertising sales pitches.

Ballot box biology is no different. Touted as “direct democracy” and a means to take vital issues “directly to the people,” the modern initiative process has become the play toy of wealthy special-interest individuals and groups whose deep pockets provide the cash to hammer home hard-sell messages about nice sounding but completely inadequate “solutions” to public policy problems, even when no such problem exists. In fact, up through the end of August, 75 percent of the more than half million dollars the I-713 campaign had raised had come from outside Washington state. Instead of broad public debate and deliberation on issues of vital importance, many of today’s initiatives have become ways two or three wealthy individuals or groups can change the system to their own advantage in a system where the winner is too often determined by the amount of money spent, not the merits of the arguments offered.

Ballot box biology is based on whether or not a proponent has cash to buy enough advertising to convince one more voter than the opposition. It has nothing to do with scientific research and nothing to do with sound and effective proposals on the health, welfare or conservation of one animal, much less all of Washington’s wildlife and wild places.

We have seen enough of ballot box biology in Washington state. It is time to stand up and just say no to ill conceived, poorly written legislation driven by animal rights agendas rather than sound science and good old-fashioned common sense. I-713 is just too extreme – it even bans mole and gopher traps -and does not deserve to become public law in our state.

Tell your friends and neighbors to cast a vote for common sense. Vote ‘no’ to I-713.

Just say no to ballot box biology.

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