I-713’s ban may snare us in an unanticipated trap

It’s easy to understand the passion that put Initiative-713 on the November ballot. With graphic images of animals tortured and suffering — their limbs caught in steel traps — who wouldn’t want to live in a state that takes a kinder and gentler approach to wildlife management? Add in the possibility that precious domesticated pets could become the unintended victims of these traps and you’ve got the kind of dramatic backdrop that puts signatures on petitions for initiatives such as this one.

But, as they say, the devil is in the details — and the details of this initiative are simply too unmanageable to merit support. Voters should simply say no to Initiative 713 as a well-intended but potentially dangerous interference in the ways the state allows trapping of wild animals.

Unfortunately, this measure reflects one of the major flaws of the initiative process. In writing an initiative, supporters don’t need to consider the ramifications or the cost of their ideas, nor do they have to work through the give and take process that assures the voices of all constituencies statewide are represented. Public involvement addressing the wide variety of wildlife management situations is woefully absent from the wording and potential real life application of this initiative.

A yes vote would approve a measure that makes it a "gross misdemeanor to capture an animal with certain body-gripping traps, or to poison an animal with sodium fluoroacetate or sodium cyanide." The measure would also make it illegal "to buy, sell, or otherwise exchange raw fur from a mammal that has been trapped with any foot-hold or other body-gripping trap." On the surface that sounds good, but we encourage voters to take the time to read the fine print and consider the unintended consequences this initiative might pose.

Clearly those living in the most urbanized areas of Puget Sound would find little impact from the initiative. While property damage here is pretty much limited to lawn-damaging moles, some rural landowners face much bigger problems. Such is the situation forest landowners face in dealing with the mountain boomer or upland beaver, a large rodent that can chew through vast numbers of recently planted trees in newly reforested areas. With hundreds of tiny seedling trees per acre at risk, the potential impact of this trapping ban could run into the millions in lost forestland value.

In addressing the issue of trapping animals who present a threat to public safety, proponents argue that any necessary exceptions can be made through a special dispensation permit. Trapping could be allowed by the director of the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife in consultation with the director of the state Department of Social and Health Services. Last we checked, the last thing any reasonable person wanted was to see DSHS trying to handle even more responsibilities than it does now.

Good intentions don’t make good law. I-713 is well intended, but filled with booby traps that could hurt the public.

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