While reading the welcomed The Redoubt Report’s 16 January 2013 article on trapping in the Cooper Landing area, I was struck by Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, being quoted saying,
“There are two sides to every story and if someone is trapping legally in a community, it is the responsibility of dog owners to keep their pets on leashes. But, trappers need to understand that trapping along the edge of roads in residential areas builds resentment for trapping with the general public. We encourage trappers to trap away from publicly used trails and be responsible for their traps, and it’s always sad when this doesn’t happen.”
Agreed there are always two sides, but there are glaring worries with Larry’s statement which highlight the problem and place the responsibility of trapping questions clearly onto Fish and Game. Why is trapping in a community and along the edge of roads in residential areas considered legal under any circumstances? Aren’t residential areas by definition, not good places to set trap lines? Why does Fish and Game apparently think so off-handedly that the public should simply acquiesce to such a situation? And if all the agency will do is encourage trappers to trap responsibly, aren’t they being grossly negligent of their duties to the tax paying public? This is more than “sad”. It’s an off-the-cuff, easy-way-out disregard for proper procedure and of obligations.
Fishermen certainly get more than “encouragement” to behave; we comply with strict regulations and quotas which are spelled out and enforced by Fish and Game. Is trapping somehow more special than fishing that it gets a weird carte-blanche with no penalties and just suggestions? What if fishing regulations “suggested” when the Russian River Sanctuary is closed and “encouraged” everyone to be responsible by not surpassing their limits?
The protesting public gets a constant run around from Fish and Game and the Board of Game about dangerous trapping practices, lax or no regulations, and lax or no enforcement. Somehow the agencies are always helpless to do anything and dog owners are the ones to blame since pets should be on leashes. This is ridiculous, since allowing trapping on multi-use public lands reduces those lands to a single use, trapping. Due to safety issues the greater percentage of users is being kept from using their land, regardless of leash responsibilities. Children are not a leash responsibility on public trails or community roads.
I believe there are many actions that can be taken to reign in dangerous trapping practices, such as legislating identification tagging of all traps and specifying no-trap areas. Trapping may be a complex issue, but it is not an impossible one. It is time to say enough is enough with the hand-wringing helplessness. It is past time for Fish and Game to take positive and cooperative action rather than ignoring the trapping problems.
The changing dynamics of places like Cooper Landing and Quartz Creek along Kenai Lake and Bean Creek Road in CL require that the issues be faced. Trapping may well be an expression of an Alaskan way of life, but with the growing population and housing in many parts of the Kenai, it too must change with the times. In the same way that we are regulated by what we can build along the river and lake sides, where and when sheep and moose can be taken, trapping must be drawn into proper parameters of behavior.
• Green lives in Cooper Landing.