UPDATE (1-13-17): I have recieved word that the anti-hunting group behind LSR-2017-0288 have annouced their decision to withdraw the proposed bill - citing lack of public support. I would like to think the lack of public support is less about support for beavers and their role in the ecosystem, and more about a lack of support for drastically, and unnecessarily, shrinking New Hampshire's wildlife management toolbox. I have yet to fully confirm the withdrawl, but it would appear the Legislative Service Request has since been removed from NH's government website.
The withdrawl of this bill is a prime example of what happens when folks band together, and let their voices be heard! There were many individuals and organizations who saw this proposal for what it was, but most importantly, it was a grassroots effort by YOU - the NH citizen, contacting legislaitors and making the "powers that be" fully aware that this was a very unfavorable and reckless amendment for New Hampshire's beaver populations. I would like to stress again that the argument here is NOT whether folks feel the beaver is an integral, keystone species and benefit to the ecosytem; but rather a popular disdain for removing regulated fur trapping from the modern wildlife management playbook - Special Thanks to all who made the efforts to make your voices heard - you are the TRUE ally to New Hampshire's common-sense conservation efforts!
As expected, New Hampshire citizens will be facing another wave of anti-trapping legislation in 2017. In particular, one current Legislation Service request (a bill before it becomes a bill) known as LSR- 2017-0288.
The NH legislative session beginning in January 2017 is expected to see the introduction of revisions to a "Beaver Protection Bill", which will be heard in the Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee. The most current text of the bill appears to make extreme restrictive changes to the current Beaver RSA, with the current language changed to the following: (Click here to view the changes proposed in BOLD.)
The bill proposal attempts to remove beaver trapping from the wildlife management equation by forcing all New Hampshire residents, business owners and municipalities to implement costly beaver “flow devices” at the entrance of dams where flooding is occurring. Nowhere in the bill proposal does it exempt recreational trapping seasons, which suggests that, not only are you forced into a costly tap dance with beaver flow pipes in a damage control situation, but you will no longer be allowed to lawfully harvest beavers for their naturally warm and waterproof fur, or edible (and might I add tasty) meat – or hire a free, locally licensed beaver trapper to do so. Some lawmakers and supporters of the bill have tried to pass this off as a "Wildlife Control" related issue, stating that it is not an anti-trapping bill. I'll reiterate that its painfully clear from reading the current proposal, that there is no language in the proposed bill which differentiates nuisance beaver “control work” from regular legal fur trapping seasons – this screams “anti-trapping bill” if I ever did see one. I think someone’s pants are on fire!
This particular bill proposal has so many theoretical holes that I honestly thought it was a joke the first time I read through it. It is painfully clear that whomever drafted and wrote up this bill has no wildlife management knowledge, nor do they fully understand the characteristics of the North American Beaver as a wild species on today’s landscape with humans. In a recent article by NH newspaper The Union Leader (click to view the article), Rep. Carolyn Matthews (R-Raymond) who is sponsoring the bill, has stated that a local anti-hunting organization is responsible for the bill’s proposal. She goes on to state that the bill proposal seeks to make beaver trapping “a solution of last resort”; which if we’re being honest here is just code-slang for “screw your outdoor heritage and natural-born right to live off the land and utilize a natural, renewable resource”.
Been down this road before.
New England Trappers have been down this road many times before. One simply has to look at the infamous Chelmsford, Massachusetts example to get a taste of how poorly anti-trapping legislation effects society and wildlife collectively. After passing anti-beaver trapping legislation, the state's beaver issues and complaints exploded. Massachusetts has since reinstated lethal beaver trapping on a permit basis. Even with these points in play, Granite Stators yet again seem to find ourselves encompassed in repetitive, restrictive legislation that has (in recent years) begun to border on outright harassment. This time, instead of looking at rational, sound conservation management of bobcats, we are now fighting to hang on to the health of a great keystone furbearer species – the beaver.
A petition has been started via change.org to place pressure on legislators. The petition utilizes sweeping generalizations and information that appears to be peeled straight from a PETA recruitment video. The information on their petition site seems to extremely contradict itself as well – suggesting that trapping somehow negatively impacts the beaver population, while in the next sentence stating that trapping doesn’t “kill all the beavers and isn’t a long-term solution”. So which is it? Do trappers “kill all the beaver”, or is the beaver population doing so well that “trapping doesn’t work to control them”? The petition (at the time of this article being written) features just over 200 signatures – with the bulk of signatures coming from places like The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Florida, and places that are very far away from New Hampshire itself. Nothing says “grass-roots New Hampshire” quite like Europe – right?
All comedy aside, it is very important for both sides of this argument to really understand and come to terms with something; no fur trapper wishes to inflict negative impacts to our beaver population as a whole, nor do we want to see ecosystems disrupted. There is no argument from either side that beavers are beneficial to the environment. Let me be perfectly clear, as a fur trapper myself, I am one hundred percent aware of how beneficial beavers are. I also understand how modern wildlife management and sound science works - you can hunt and trap furbearer populations under strict regulations and continue to see their populations, and natural habitat flourish. Anyone who passed high school biology should be able to understand concepts like carrying capacity, disease contraction, and animal depredation.
So what can you do to stop the madness? For one, you can educate your neighbors and family about the benefits consumptive practices like trapping present for wildlife species (as a whole). If you are a local trapper, make your landowners aware that there is legislation currently moving through the state house that seeks to greatly restrict the activities that take place on their private property. If you are in the Wildlife Control Industry – let your beaver customers know their bill for cost of beaver control will go up two-three figures if this bill proposal is passed. Politely speak up for science-based management like hunting and trapping on social media and online comment sections, and/or utilize the “Letter to the Editor” section of local newspapers.
Any and all New Hampshire residents are encouraged to contact their local legislative representatives. To find out who your representatives are for your area, click HERE. I’m not talking about sending a quick email or handwritten letter; I’m talking about blowing up their phones and speaking with them directly – Government is unfortunately not for all, it goes to those who show up, so put your representatives to work by telling them by phone or face to face exactly how you feel about having your natural rights constricted to sudden death. Call them now – and then call them again and follow-up in two-three months. This is what your legislative representatives signed up for – they want to hear from YOU. If you refuse to speak up for your outdoor rights, you might as well tear up your hunting/trapping licenses and sit on the sidelines.
Get the facts.
Some key points to keep in mind when speaking with legislators, colleagues, or members of the public:
- New Hampshire’s beaver population is currently healthy and thriving.
- No trapper wishes to negatively impact NH’s beaver populations as a whole – which is why support for proper education on the subject of trapping is encouraged.
- The beaver population has remained healthy, and even increased over decades with trapping activities in place.
- Beaver “bafflers” and other “flow devices” are not a cure-all for beaver control. (Massachusetts figured this out the hard way)
- These “flow devices” are extremely costly, and require routine maintenance to properly maintain.
- This bill proposal does not address other beaver damage situations, such as destruction to trees, water contamination through beaver waste - Giardiasis (known as beaver fever), and proper beaver population monitoring.
- This bill seeks to greatly restrict how private landowners can handle nuisance wildlife issues on their own property.
- As current laws stand, landowners and municipalities can have beaver conflict issues resolved (in many cases) at not cost, due to current recreational trapping seasons – or utilize these “flow devices” if they so choose.
- Trappers do not simply trap beaver for “nuisance” issues. The animal’s pelt, glands, and edible meat has an endless array of viable uses to mankind.
- Regulated trapping PROMOTES healthy ecosystem growth and assists our state biologists with hands-on data collection.
- The activities of regulated beaver trapping is also utilized as an early warning sign for biologists and state agencies to determine beaver species health in specific locations – something that can’t be obtained from a “flow device”, or through a camera lens.
As we wait for this proposal to become an actual bill, please do what you can to spread the word. I will update and edit this article, as information becomes updated and/or known. Happy Trappin’