Montana Trapping Ban on Public Lands Initiative (2014)

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The Montana Trapping Ban on Public Lands, Initiative 169 was not on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Montana as an initiated state statute. The measure would have prohibited trapping “fur-bearing animals, game animals, migratory game birds, upland game birds, large predators, predatory animals and certain non-game wildlife” by non-authorized individuals on any public land within the state, including public land leased to private parties.[1]

Text of measure

The ballot question would have read as follows:[2]

I-169 prohibits the trapping of fur-bearing animals, game animals, migratory game birds, upland game birds, large predators, predatory animals, and certain nongame wildlife by any means on any public lands within Montana, including public lands leased to private parties, subject to limited exceptions. I-169 allows the use of nonlethal snares, traps, or nets to take wildlife for purposes of scientific research, migratory bird propagation, falconry, relocation, medical treatment or to protect public health and safety. If nonlethal methods have been tried and found ineffective, I-169 allows trapping by public employees and their agents for nuisance or conflict animal problems. Trapped animal carcasses may be used only for beneficial public purposes.

I-169 will result in the annual loss of approximately $65,040 in trapping license revenue to the state. In addition, the state would incur financial expenses for state employees and their agents to trap nuisance or conflict animals that are currently addressed by private trappers. These costs cannot be reasonably determined.

[ ] YES on Initiative I-169
[ ] NO on Initiative I-169[3]


Trap Free Montana 2014.jpg

The campaign in support of the initiative was led by the organization Trap Free Montana Public Lands.[4]


KC York, chairperson of the Trap Free Montana Public Lands ballot initiative committee, provided the following reasons to support the initiative:

  • "Many Montanans want trap free public lands for their safe use, for their companion animals, for treatment of wildlife consistent with the principles of ethical hunting, to restore beaver ponds, increasing riparian habitat, trout habitat, big game browse and natural fire breaks, to increase the wildlife and rare species we value and which many people come to see adding a further sustaining boast to our economy."[5]
  • "I-169 only affects trapping and only on public lands. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, nearly 65% of the state is held in private ownership. The rights of the private land owner, as well as hunting and fishing rights, remain protected. There are exceptions for trapping on public land for public health and safety, scientific research, migratory bird propagation, falconry, relocation, medical treatment or if the nuisance and conflict animal problem has not been or cannot be abated by reasonable nonlethal methods. Rodents, other than beaver and muskrat, can continue to be trapped. Our initiative is fair, reasonable and good for Montana."
  • "One thousand six hundred and thirty-five bobcat were reported trapped in Montana this season. Cost to the trapper, a mere $29 trapping fee. As usual, four out of seven districts exceeded their quota — this time by an additional 62. Guess what? The trapper still gets to keep them! Sixty-two amounts to $18,600 to $62,000 added blood money, and those pelts are sent to China and Russia, predominantly."[6]

Other arguments in support of the initiative included:

  • Rancher Steve Clevidence said, “I happen to be a member of a seven generation Montana ranching family. I extend my endorsement to Trap Free Montana Public Land’s initiative, as I and my family feel that even though trapping may have once been part of our state’s history, it does not need to be a part of Montana’s future. Our public lands are just that, public lands and therefore every citizen has as much right to use those lands in relative safety without fear of traps and snares strewn across the landscape waiting for unsuspecting victims. Trapping needs to be recognized as cruel and unethical treatment of animals and should be abolished on our Montana public lands.”[5]


Montanans for Effective Wildlife Management 2014.jpg

The campaign in opposition to the initiative was led by the organization Montanans for Effective Wildlife Management.[7][8]



  • Montana Trappers Association[9]
  • Nevada Trappers Association
  • Montana Bowhunters Association
  • Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife
  • Montana Outfitters & Guides Association
  • Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife Association
  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • Ducks Unlimited, Bitterroot Chapter
  • Montana Outdoor Radio Show
  • Great Rockies Sport Show


  • Minnesota Trapline Products, Inc.[9]
  • Montana Made Trapper Bags
  • Sportsman’s Warehouse
  • J & M Furs
  • Labs “R” It
  • Bitterroot Valley Archery
  • SpirtWild Ranch
  • ONX Maps
  • GMW Knives
  • Behring Made
  • Rooster’s Saddlery
  • C&S Sales
  • Big Sky Brewing Co.
  • Famous Daves
  • Kit’s Tackle
  • BlueStar Sidecar Design
  • Karl Tyler Chevrolet & Cadillac
  • Five Valley Honda
  • Bitterroot Pet Palace
  • K Design Marketing, Inc.

  • ACE Hardware
  • It WorksⓇ


  • Keith Kubista, president of Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, argued, "As Montanans, we must protect our rights to public land use and guard against those who wish to eliminate our way of life just because they don’t agree with what we do. The long-standing tradition of trapping lives large across our treasured state. I urge you to reject Initiative 169 and ponder this question — what outdoor activity prohibition is next on the animal rights activists agenda?"[10]


Intimidation by opponents

KC York, chairperson of the Trap Free Montana Public Lands, claimed that initiative opponents, led by Montana Trappers Association Vice President Jason Maxwell, "intimidated and harassed our signature gatherers for I-169 and interfered with the First Amendment and voters right to sign the ballot initiative." He continued,

Trappers have stolen our petitions from vet clinics and events. They have illegally inscribed on the petition showing a complete disrespect for the initiative process. They have sent us nasty emails and publicized complete false allegations. They have sent us emails pretending to be supporters, telling us of trapped animals in desperate need of our help and then mocking us as wildlife biologists and rehabbers for falling for their lies. They fabricated requests for demanding a public apology they deceptively orchestrated to begin with and that was of a private email between our actual supporters.

The trappers act as trolls among our supporters and show up to block potential signers at events telling them we are liars, following and taunting inexperienced signature gatherers and sabotaging the democratic process for all Montanans to be able to vote. They are bullies and what they do to trapped animals is cognizant of how they treat weaker beings unable to defend or escape. Saturday, they were no longer given the warning and the police were called when a trapper at least three times the size decided to yet again pick on women behind a booth gathering signatures at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market. In their efforts to oppose I-169, Trap Free Montana Public Lands, the Montana Trappers Association and their sidekick, Montanans for Ineffective Wildlife Management, are now under investigation for multiple violations of financial reporting. This is what we do know. Imagine what we don’t. [3]

—KC York [11]

An official complaint was filed with the Commissioner of Political Practices on May 20, 2014.[12]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Montana

Supporters were required to collect 24,174 valid signatures and submit them to the Office of the Secretary of State by June 20, 2014, in order to place the initiative on the November ballot.

On June 24, 2014, Trap Free Montana Public Lands announced, via social media, that they failed to collect enough signatures to get their initiative on the ballot.[13]

Similar measures

See also

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