October 17, 2018

Letter to Montana Governor: What Happens With “Reasonable” Restrictions on First Amendment

From Gary Marbut, President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association:

Governor Steve Bullock
Helena, Montana
Dear Governor Bullock,
Just like you “support” the Second Amendment, we support the First Amendment, but as with you and the Second, we support the First Amendment with reasonable and commonsense restrictions.
Because of these commonsense restrictions, you are no longer allowed to speak on government property, including within 1,000 feet of schools and buildings occupied by any level of government.  That would be just too dangerous.  You are also not allowed to speak in any other public place unless you have a government permit to do so.  Such a permit will only be granted if you have satisfactorily completed an approved training course about how to comply with writing and speech restrictions – how to use your rights safely.
You are no longer allowed to use amplification to enhance your speech, as such amplification is considered to be “high capacity” or “assault speech.”  No microphones.  You are no longer allowed to use any electronic means to write, record, or transmit your speech, since those mechanisms were not yet invented when the First Amendment was ratified.  Being a smart and capable guy, we’re sure you can get by with a pen made from a turkey feather and the volume and reach of your natural voice.
Another commonsense restriction will be what you may write or talk about.  We will have a committee available to review any proposed writing or proposed speech from you, in advance.  This committee will research your past writings and speech, and the proposed writing or speech, looking for any abuse or history of abuse.  If there is any such abuse or history, the committee will not approve your writing or speech.  If you attempt to write or speak without this advanced approval, you may be prosecuted for a federal crime, bankrupted with legal costs, put in a federal prison, and lose all of your rights.  Oh, by the way, Republicans will appoint this review committee.
Oh, and there will be a ten-day waiting period after your writing or speech has been approved by the committee before you will be allowed to share the writing with others or deliver the speech.  You may have composed the writing or speech in a moment of passion, and you may reconsider your intent or language after you’ve had a few days to cool down.
You will be allowed to speak to one person at a time, in a private setting, as long as you do not disturb others and the content of your speech is approved in advance.  And, you will be allowed to write as much as you want, as long as the writing is with a quill pen, is approved in advance by the committee, is reproduced only manually, and is carried only by foot or horse power, all following the ten-day cooling down period.  We will allow so much, for now, because we fully support your First Amendment rights and because we do not wish to be unduly restrictive.
We hope you understand that these commonsense restrictions are best for everyone, for the public good.  You aren’t opposed to the public good and everyone, are you?
If these commonsense restrictions don’t solve whatever problems may be apparent or imagined, we will need to look at other possible restrictions.  We don’t really want to take away your First Amendment, but everyone demands that we solve the terrible problem of First Amendment abuse and solve it now.  Surely we must all bow to the majority of public opinion in this, don’t you agree?
Sincerely yours,
The Public
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Pro Choice?

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Does Maine’s Restriction on Youth Deer Hunting Day Help Deer or Hurt the Future of Hunting?

*Editor’s Note* Below is a letter written by Leo Kieffer in response to questions and concerns about Maine’s restriction to limit deer hunting for the state’s youth on Youth Day.

Many have asked that I put in writing my opposition to the continuation of the discriminatory Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s program that I refer to as the Northern Maine Anti Youth Program on youth deer hunting day. I am very happy to do so.

I strongly opposed this proposal when it was originally proposed when I was on the Advisory Council, and I strongly oppose it even more today. It has accomplished nothing except to totally alienate our Northern Maine youth, their parents, landowner’s who have a family, and to limit access. If these are the goals of anyone, then they can consider themselves a rousing success.

Over the years as a master Maine guide, a State Senator, a member of the SAM board of directors and having served on the IF&W advisory board I always supported managing our fishery and wildlife based on solid biological research and factual statistical information gathered from departmental records and a variety of other professional sources including a little common sense. The present Northern Maine anti youth program fails any and all of these tests.
Lets look at where this anti youth program originated. The Legislature passed LD 823 which resulted in the creation of yet another deer study or task force. The report from this group was filed with Commissioner Martin in December 2007 and has since been filed in the round file under the desk along with the others. While the report goes on and on for many pages in its redundancy the basic recommendations are itemized on pages 11 to 16.

Look on page 15, paragraph number 1 under HUNTING. This is very clear that this anti youth proposal is merely a recommendation, supported by absolutely no biological data or anything else. It was submitted for consideration by this group along with the many other recommendations, yet it is the only one that was accepted by the department. The other recommendations under paragraph 2, a. b., and c as well as all of paragraph 3 were and continue to be completely ignored. Paragraph number 1 was accepted as it cost the department nothing, required no effort and would cause the department no heartburn from 12 year olds. The other recommendations under HUNTING, paragraph 2, a, b, and c that were ignored would have required biological and statistical studies, effort and funding in some cases. This was all a very cut and dried issue as several members of this task force were departmental employees, appointed by the Commissioner, and were the very employees that were in position to make decisions on behalf of the department to either accept or reject any or all recommendations!

Even then if this recommendation had been incorporated as part of a comprehensive deer management plan, including but not limited to coyote and bear predator control, landowner relations, an attempt to limit the slaughter of our deer on our highways, shorter hunting seasons in certain areas, and other conservation issues it might have been acceptable. As a standalone item it is a sad pathetic joke to blame our northern Maine youth for the deer decline.
Because of the past two easy winters weather wise and efforts by the Aroostook County Conservation Association and others in reducing coyote numbers, there has been a remarkable increase in deer numbers east of route 11. The bear predator issue now needs to be addressed. West of route 11 the deer situation is an entirely different story. Yet management is still always based on the old North South issue. I really don’t know why we have game management districts for deer in Northern Maine. A few permits could be issued to our youth East of route 11 and do no harm to the resource and do a world of good in other ways.

The biological position of the department on this youth day issue was made very clear recently by the Commissioner at the Advisory Council meeting in Augusta on May 19, 2011. On page 3, step 2, number 1 any deer permit-youth day. Mr. Thurston stated that he would like to know the Departments biological opinion on this. Commissioner Woodcock stated there would be insignificant impact. He had talked it over with biologists and in total there weren’t many does killed on youth day. This quotation is taken directly from the meeting minutes.

While I and others believe that every deer is important, we also believe that every one of our youth, their parents, and landowners that are being lost to hunting, along with lost access, are more important than saving a very few deer on youth day for coyote feed next winter. Our youth deserve better.

R. Leo Kieffer

Caribou, Maine

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Call to Action on Maine Application for Trapping Incidental Take Permit

*Editor’s Note:* Below is a copy of a letter sent to licensed trappers and others in the State of Maine from the Maine Trappers Association. It concerns a request for comments about proposed rules that will govern trapping in Maine to protect the “threatened” species of Canada lynx, according to the Endangered Species Act.

It may or may not be the position of this author to agree with the contents of the letter sent nor do I necessarily agree that all the content of this letter is accurate. I will, however, take this time to encourage everyone, not just trappers or those from Maine, but concerned outdoor advocates to carefully consider the Application the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for “incidental take” of Canada lynx. It’s a liability issue. Also consider reviewing the Draft Environmental Assessment crafted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At the end of the following letter are instructions on the proper way to submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The deadline for comments is February 7, 2012. Please reference this website for additional information on this issue.

Dear trapper, December 28, 2011

We need your help! Twelve years ago the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Canada lynx as a threatened species. Maine’s healthy lynx population was included in that listing. At the same time, the USFWS promised to adopt a rule to “to address incidental take of lynx resulting from otherwise lawful hunting and trapping”. Unfortunately, that never happened. Failure of the Service to address “incidental take” paved the way for animal activists to use the listing to attack trapping. They filed two separate lawsuits against the State of Maine, both of which attempted to outlaw trapping in lynx habitat, nearly half the State, and which eventually resulted in increased trapping restrictions. Until the incidental take issue is resolved, more lawsuits are likely and our trapping heritage remains in jeopardy.

The USFWS now appears ready to address the incidental take of lynx by trappers in Maine. They are currently accepting comments from the public in response to Maine’s application for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). This permit, if issued, would allow a limited number of lynx to be taken incidentally in traps set for other furbearers. Depending on the conditions attached to the ITP, trapping for other furbearers would be allowed to continue, and individual trappers would be protected against prosecution for accidentally catching a lynx

Maine’s application spells out the things the State plans to do to try to keep lynx from being taken accidentally in traps. The State believes, and the MTA agrees, that what they have proposed is adequate to protect lynx. However, the USFWS has listed numerous additional requirements and restrictions for protecting lynx that could be added to, or adopted in place of, what the State has proposed. That’s where things get really scary for trappers. The animal fanatics will be pushing hard for the most severe restrictions and will be sending lots of written comments to support those restrictions. If the number of comments received by the USFWS is lopsided in favor of the protectionists, there is a possibility that the ITP could be accompanied by restrictions that would be devastating to trappers, including an end to land trapping in lynx areas.

In order for trappers to have any input, they must prepare comments in writing and submit them to the USFWS prior to February 7, 2012. The MTA will be submitting comments on behalf of our membership, but that’s not enough. The USFWS will consider it as “one comment received”. That’s why we are asking individual trappers, not just in Maine but from across the country, to help us out and send comments opposing the alternative restrictions listed by the USFWS.

Here is a list of the things the State is proposing to do that would directly impact trappers. The Maine Trappers Association supports this list.
* Maintain most of the trapping rules that are currently in place.
* Maintain current restrictions on the use of killer-type traps in WMDs 1 through 11 and 14, 18 and 19, but consider expanding the use of killer-type traps at baited boxes, protected with lynx exclusion devices, on the ground.
* Maintain current size restrictions on cage-type live traps.
* Work with trappers to continue to develop techniques that will help reduce the incidental trapping of lynx.
*Eliminate the jaw-spread restrictions on foothold traps that are currently in place in WMDs 1 through 6 and 8 through 11.
* Maintain current rules regarding anchoring devices on foothold traps.
* Maintain current restriction regarding the use of visible bait.

The USFSW has listed other restrictions that could be implemented to protect lynx from being trapped incidentally. These things could be added to, or take the place of, the things the State has proposed. The MTA is adamantly opposed to every item in this list. However, the USFWS will have the final say. What they decide will depend a lot on the comments they receive.
* Require lynx-exclusion devices for all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets on poles and trees, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require that all trappers phase in foothold traps meeting BMP standards for fox, coyote and bobcat over the next 5 years and rescind existing jaw-spread restrictions once BMP trap requirements are fully implemented.
* Eliminate the use of drags and require short chains, swivels or in-line springs for foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Limit the use of killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, to size #120 (5-inch) and smaller in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require 24-hour check of all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require pan-tension devices on all foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Limit the use of foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19 to the months of October and November only.
* Prohibit trapping with land sets (including elevated sets) in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require periodic re-training of all trappers on how to avoid incidental lynx captures.

How to Submit Written Comments
It is important that your comments address one or more of the items mentioned in the list above. You should include factual information about why a particular restriction is objectionable and unnecessary. These comments must be submitted prior to February 7, 2012 in order for them to be considered. All comments must be in writing and may be submitted either through regular mail or by email to one of the addresses below.

Regular mail: Email address:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hcpmainetrapping@fws.gov
Maine Field Office
17 Godfrey Drive, Suite 2
Orono, ME 04473

Additional information about the Maine lynx situation, including Maine’s application for the ITP and the Environmental Assessment prepared by the USFWS in response to that application, is available online at the following website: www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/Canada_lynx.html

Thank you sincerely for your help!
Maine Trappers Association

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