A Grassroots Primer: Recounting The Offensive

By Carol Tresner

Earlier this year I recounted an incident occurring near a forested Reno park in December of 2006. The trailhead, located near many high-end homes, happened to be popular especially with women hikers and their canine companions, and involved two dogs inadvertently captured in leg-hold traps meant for bobcats. Within weeks, the local Reno paper featured the mishap in an article which I recognized as an empowering opportunity to change Nevada’s archaic, almost non-existent trapping regulations. Trish Swain, who had been a hiking companion of some years and a supplier of two boisterous dogs eager to run with mine, was enthusiastic about teaming up with the prospect of trap removal from not just one of our favorite hiking areas, but state wide.

A key component of our campaign was her expertise with computer functions and their application: she designed what became the TrailSafe website. Another factor was the Reno-Gazette Journal’s continued coverage of what became a hot-button issue in the Letters to the Editor section plus subsequent articles on the subject.

Trish and I gathered support from concerned individuals at various Citizen Advisory Board meetings which we enthusiastically attended, voicing our concerns and publicizing the TrailSafe website as a go-to location for information. She did research, I hatched the idea of an informal citizens’ petition requesting changes in trapping regulations which we presented at tabling opportunities such as the Home Show, Humane Society events, and most fruitfully, Earth Day where we gratefully shared space with the Great Basin Group. Eventually Trish entered over 700 names into our data base/membership list, most generated by our petition. In contrast, only 611 trappers were licensed in all of Nevada. Public sentiment was clearly on our side!

On March 30th, four of us attended our first Nevada Department of Wildlife meeting where we spoke before the commission during the public comment period. We were instructed to present a formal petition at the next meeting. Later, we learned the new director, Kenneth Meyer, instructed staff to assist us with the process for which we are most grateful. After this initial meeting, Joel Balkeslee, president of the Nevada Trappers Association, offered to meet with us. Trish declined, but a two hour chat over coffee was amiable and a dialogue with the opposition was established.

For me, a background of some 20-odd years in Sierra Club-style activism was invaluable, providing support and networking contacts such as Marge Sill and Tina Nappe (formerly on the NDOW commission).

Trish made important contacts via the website as well. Any and all Washoe county public officials who might be seen as sympathetic to our cause were contacted. It was agreed that support for our petition was to be placed before the county commissioners as an agenda item. It was necessary to keep our goals on the public and official radar for the groundswell value.

Sadly, at this point our goals objectives. All our members agreed that recreational trapping was counter to our values, but what could be realistically achieved?

The next NDOW meeting on the 11th of May saw our petition rejected. We had asked for too much. Both sides were instructed to return with a joint petition. In Nevada, only NDOW can change trapping regulations. The alternatives are time-consuming lobbying before the next meeting of the legislature or an expensive ballot initiative.

The influx of California residents into the Reno area had produced a change in cultural awareness as well as producing an overflow of homes into the urban interface. Trapping had a public safety hazard aspect and the trappers knew this. Realizing the wisdom of some concessions they asked to meet at the NDOW offices. Other officials were invited and attended, stressing the importance of our mission and giving us a psychological advantage, I felt. The arc, in a manner of speaking, was full and launched. The signed petition covered trails from the Tahoe Rim east, virtually Mt. Rose to Interstate 80 was in effect closed to snares and leg hold traps utilized by recreational trappers on public land. The joint petition was presented by Joel and myself in Elko and unanimously accepted on June 22.

Several attendees including supportive animal rights activist Don Molde noted that this was a first; a citizens’ group petition had never before succeeded. Yes, much more needs to be done, including the inhumane 96 hour checking time for trap lines. This summation omits our many dead ends and missteps, now history.

Tenacity, media exposure, organization, flexibility, wise counsel, compromise and technology all factored in- yes, luck and timing, too – and allowed this small but significant victory for what were initially only two senior women hikers who gave voice to what many others endorsed.

In this case, an offensive of less than six months duration in contrast to the lengthy campaigns usually waged by admirable activists saw results.

Realize that that person who greets you each day in the mirror might be a world-changing force waiting to manifest. WHAT’S YOUR ISSUE?

Carol Tresner is a founder of Trailsafe. See www.trailsafe.org


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561