Washington trap measure reversal appears stalled in House

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Controversial trapping measure: I-713

3/12/02

Spokane Spokesman-Review/Rich Landers

Legislative action: In a unique attempt to reverse a citizen initiative, the Washington Senate last month voted to repeal Initiative 713, the sweeping ban on most animal trapping approved by state voters in 2000.
However, as this Outdoors & Travel section went to press, the bill appeared to be stalled in the House last week.


2000 campaign: Initiative 713 bans the use of body-gripping traps to capture any mammal for recreation or commerce in fur, along with two specific poisons. Initiative sponsors, primarily the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), argued that such methods are cruel and inhumane.
Opponents argued that voters didn't know what they were approving, buying an emotional argument without weighing its effect on agriculture, logging, golfing, and the manicured lawns of proud suburban homeowners.

If the House were to agree with the Senate, I-713 would become the first initiative in state history to be completely repealed by the Legislature.

"The initiative was a gross violation of the public trust, said Ed Owens, chairman of Citizens for Responsible Wildlife Management (CRWM), the primary group that opposed I-713. "Voters thought they were doing something good and it turned out that they were not."


In the Senate: The original bill introduced in the Senate this year would have eased restrictions in the law to allow lethal traps to be used for moles, gophers and even for beavers threatening commercial tree farms. HSUS supported this bill.
But senators amended the bill to completely overturn I-713. They argued, for example, that if city folks can use lethal traps to get rid of "pests," then ranchers and fish farmers should be able to use traps to control coyotes and otters that plague their operations, too.


Opposing sides: Lisa Wathne, HSUS Pacific Northwest region director, was angered by the Senate action.
"We sent out 16,000 postcards to notify some of our members (about the Senate's repeal vote)," she told the Associated Press. "The Legislature is hearing from some very angry people."

But funding initiatives and sending angry correspondence is about all HSUS does in this state, said Owens.

HSUS shares a similar name with the better known local Humane Society shelters that do the dirty work of dealing with America's epidemic of unwanted cats and dogs.

However, HSUS does not share its wealth with these local shelters.

HSUS is a propaganda group that spends more than $50 million each year, virtually all of it on fund-raising and so-called education programs, many of which promote "animal rights extremism," Owens said.

In a telephone interview, The Spokesman-Review asked HSUS senior vice-president Wayne Pacelle what his organization does for animals in Washington state. Pacelle said he'd call back with an answer.

More than a year later, he has not responded.


Funding questioned: The campaign for Washington's anti-trapping initiative committed multiple violations of campaign finance law, the Public Disclosure Commission ruled in late February.
The state's campaign watchdog sent the case to Attorney General Christine Gregoire, who has the power to seek steep fines.

The commission found that proponents of I-713 illegally failed to report massive purchases of television advertising time until just days before the 2000 election.

"It reinforces everything we've said for the last 15 months about how the voters of Washington state were misled," Owens said of the commission's ruling.

Owens brought the original complaint after discovering orders for advertising time in TV station records that hadn't been disclosed to the PDC.

During the campaign, he also pointed out that gory ads I-713 proponents were running on television featured out-of-state footage of animals in traps that were already illegal in Washington. Seattle stations pulled the commercials.


Coming up: Regardless of how the Legislature deals with I-713 this session, the issue is not going away.
Citizens for Responsible Wildlife Management has filed two lawsuits stemming from the campaign.

Owens is particularly concerned about the deception initiative proponents used in the state voter's pamphlet.

The record shows that I-713 proponents were notified by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as far back as May 7, 2000, that the initiative would ban the trapping of moles, mountain beavers and gophers, Owens said.

"I-713 supporters told voters during signature gathering and during the campaign that moles and gophers would not be included," he said. "They submitted voters guide information to the Secretary of State on Aug. 16 and followed up with a rebuttal statement filed on Aug. 29 saying, "It doesn't ban trapping for moles. . ..

"Urban voters voted for the measure in the sincere belief their daily lives would not be impacted."

Compiled by Rich Landers
 

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