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PROP 5

Well, mediocrity reigned at the voting booth on the first Tuesday of November. Proposition 5 became law. The spin is out there as it always is after every election. The proponents of restricting the meaning of voting argued it was a landslide and Utahns spoke with clarity. The opponents argued that another week and it could have been defeated. Proponents argued Utahns understood the intent of Prop 5; the opponents argued that huge sums of money and advertising so distorted the intent of Prop 5 that those voting yea were thoroughly confused.

But there is no dispute about what Prop 5 does-- the state constitution now requires that ballot initiatives on the "taking of wildlife or the season for or method of taking wildlife" receive a 2/3 super-majority of votes instead of the usual simple majority to become law-- and it passed by a surprisingly wide margin of 12 points! There is no doubt the huge sums of advertising money spent by pro- Prop 5 supporters, primarily the hunting community, the Utah Wildlife Board and a few professors from BYU and USU thrown in for good measure, twisted Prop 5 into something that it isn’t. It doesn’t help wildlife in the slightest. Not a dollar goes to a single new biologist. Not a single program to assist a single habitat program was put in place. Nor is it good for civil-life--the intent of Prop 5 is clear-- to restrict access to the initiative process, a fundamental cornerstone of democracy, by certain groups of citizens who are dissatisfied with traditional wildlife management. It conceded that wildlife mangement in Utah is not as good as it should be with the intent to keep it out of touch with broader ecological principles. It was a mischievous effort and is a mischievous proposal enacted in a legitimate fashion!

On election morning I watched the last 50 sandhill cranes leave Cache Valley. Their route was right over our house, circling, singing, squawking ever higher into the sky. I thought for a moment that maybe this was a sign! But I was overcome by the simply reality, unfortunately, that decisions like this are made in voting booths. We must give ourselves to these wild critters--dance with them as Barry Lopez tells us in his classic story The Drought. The environmental community must decide wildlife is more than a commodity and go en masse to Regional Wildlife, Wildlife Board and UDWR "planning" meetings with the simple message that goshawks are not for falconry, non-native fish are not for catching, bears are not for baiting, cougar not for hounding, bighorn sheep don’t need protection from cougar and mountain goats, as beautiful as they are, don’t belong in the Uintas. Only then will we have stepped over the barrier and recognized wild critters as part and parcel of wildness, not for us, but part of a wild world. Rethink and redouble our efforts? I hope so.

Dick Carter


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