The cover-up is always worse than the crime. The new director of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Hank Worsech, has gotten himself entangled in a lie to protect the governor who appointed him. The governor’s illegal killing of a trapped wolf was not even a quiet incident; it’s been reported across the country. Yet the director of FWP is suddenly denying his own agency’s legal citation of the governor.
FWP sells general trapping licenses. There is no specific wolf trapping license. To legally trap a wolf, “A person must attend and complete a wolf-trapping certification class before setting any trap for a wolf…. This certification must be in possession of any person setting wolf traps and/or harvesting a wolf by a trap” (FWP wolf trapping regulations).
This means that a general license does not allow wolf trapping and killing. The trapper must have the certificate, along with the general license, to trap and kill wolves.
Gov. Greg Gianforte was cited with a legal warning by FWP for illegally killing a trapped wolf because he did not take the class and did not have the certificate required.
However, in replying to an inquiry about Gianforte’s illegal wolf killing, FWP Director Worsech wrote, “The reason this was a legal wolf harvest is the fact that the Governor held a wolf license and held a trapping license at the time of the harvest.… Once again the facts are the Governor was licensed to Trap [sic] and harvest a wolf and therefore legal.”
No. Hunting licenses do not allow trapping. The governor had a wolf hunting license and a general trapping license but was not certified to trap a wolf and therefore broke the law. But now Worsech claims that possession of a wolf hunting license equals having a wolf trapping certificate. It does not.
The cover-up makes a mockery of laws and regulations governing the state. It makes FWP a puppet of the governor rather than an agency with the mission that “provides for the stewardship of the fish, wildlife, parks, and recreational resources of Montana, while contributing to the quality of life for present and future generations.”
How does FWP regain any respect after this? Perhaps Director Worsech will publicly admit his error in judgment and stand up to the governor and the Montana Trappers Association. If he doesn’t, he loses more authority than the legislature has already taken away by making draconian laws on issues that should be handled by the Fish and Game Commission.
Constance J. Poten is board chair of Footloose Montana.