The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has announced that trapper education will not be mandatory for the 2018/2019 trapping season.
The decision to not move forward with implementing a new mandatory trapper education program came last week after questions arose about whether the Fish and Wildlife Commission has clear statutory direction to implement the program.
According to FWP spokesperson Greg Lemon, the state has never had a mandatory trapping education requirement for getting a license to trap until the FWP Commission approved a package of trapping requirements at its August 2017 meeting. The package included equipment modifications and mandatory trapper education. However, as the department worked to implement the education program, questions arose as to whether the commission was the appropriate venue to bring forward the question of mandatory trapper education.
Lemon said that some concerns cropped up internally about the remedial requirement in the new rule which would require a trapper convicted of a violation to take the education course again before being re-licensed. Then Representative Alan Doane (HD 36), a Republican from Bloomfield, Montana, raised the question as to whether the FWP Commission actually had the authority to pass such a rule. Doane argues that any such rule would have to be passed by the legislature.
The legislature has considered bills to establish mandatory trapping education in the past but it has never been approved. Lemon said that, given the legal questions that are involved, the department decided to “hit the pause button.”
“The last thing we want to do is spend time, effort and money on instituting the requirement if it turns out that FWP Commission is not the proper venue for such actions,” said Lemon.
He said FWP will continue to work with the trapping community, staff and legislators to ensure the tradition of humane and ethical trapping in Montana continues.