Monday, January 23, 2012

Montana's wildlife policies raise ethical question

From the Washington Examiner:

Montana is looking to recreational hunters for help in enforcing more of its wildlife management policies, but one regulator worries they are being asked to cross an ethical line in doing so.
The question is whether the state is unwittingly putting those hunters in a fix: Does their new role fall within ethical hunting guidelines or does it reduce them to wildlife management mercenaries whose actions could give hunting a black eye?
That's the concern of Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioner Ron Moody, who recently questioned whether the agency's policies and proposals are asking hunters disregard what it means to be an ethical hunter.
...The man who wrote the book on ethical and fair-chase hunting, Jim Posewitz, said public perception is very important for hunters. The FWP's use of hunters to enforce wildlife management policies can work, provided the agency uses the right hunters, he said.
FWP should provide training so the hunters used have an understanding of the last century's conservation efforts in North America and also understand that the overall goal is to have sustainable, manageable wildlife populations, he said.
"We need to make sure they're very elite and a very respected group of hunters. We're not sending out assassins or SWAT teams. We are sending out sensitive, trained hunters to handle a very sensitive situation," Posewitz said.
Aasheim said additional hunting training has previously been suggested, but has not been implemented. Currently, the state provides a basic hunter education course and each person who participates in the annual bison hunt receives a 30-minute DVD that discusses ethics and hunting, he said.
Posewitz worked for the FWP for 32 years and founded Orion — The Hunters Institute, an organization that advocates for ethical hunting. More than 600,000 copies of his book, "Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting" have been handed out as part of hunter-education programs.
He cited Helena's program to control urban deer as a model of how it can be done right. Each year, the city receives authorization from FWP to kill a number of deer to maintain a manageable density of animals within the city. This year, that number is 220.
"They're not out there liquidating the deer. They're keeping the deer in balance with the carrying capacity of the city, and they're doing an excellent job of that," Posewitz said.

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