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Trapping stands on a solid foundation
By Mel Liston*

Should you wander upon an old trappers cabin while searching, contemplate your find for just a bit, as it represents much and may hold many secrets yet unknown by you. What stands before you now is a vision of the past and a platform from which you may see the future. Let us set on the porch of this old trappers cabin and visit for a spell, for it is here in the tranquility of nature and the presence of our heritage that we ponder the traditions so dear to our trapping community and collect our thoughts. It is from here as we walk down the trail to the future that we put our best foot forward. Perhaps you will find a piece of your past, which still has significant value for you, or maybe you shall gain a better understanding and appreciation for a craft that was a cornerstone in the development of this nation and continues to find relevance in our modern world. From this platform we may uncover and study the history of our past and mentor the practices of the future. We trappers must continue to maintain a dialog with and remain a willing partner for all who are truly concerned with the stewardship of the furbearer species and their habitat.

The old trappers cabin is built over a bedrock ledge and sets atop four stout rocks on a foundation designed by nature to endure. The cabin shall stand to serve its purpose as long as there are those who will maintain its integrity and profess its meaning. The structure serves a necessary function and the foundation is sound. The cabin metaphor houses the essence of trapping, past, present, and future. As we look at all that is trapping and place component parts into the cabin metaphor we shall note that much of what we in the trapping community hold dear is structure built above the foundation or essence of experience when near this place. Our history and heritage, the lifestyle we enjoy, the craft that we have developed, are all but pictures hanging on the wall, as is the view from the porch of a distant horizon. Yet we stand on a solid foundation and pay little attention to this strength unless the ground shakes. What is this foundation that insures our stability, this truth that maintains our relevance?

Wildlife in North America has been brought back from the abyss of near total destruction through a means of conservation with regulated harvest, made possible through a fairly recent commitment to wildlife science and stewardship via appropriate species and habitat management. The very successful North American model has utilized sportsmen of all types as a key ingredient to make the whole plan work. Sportsmen were the original conservationists behind the efforts to restore our natural assets, and remain committed to these concepts today. Funds provided by sportsmen/conservationists have in the past and continue in this era, to be the primary means of support for the advancement of science, stewardship, or management of wildlife and habitat. Sportsmen, through regulated harvests, remain the only viable and cost effective means to manage game species in relation to habitat carrying capacity once population objectives have been achieved. The advancement of wildlife study is very dependant upon the data, samples, and observations provided through the intimate harvest experience of a multitude of sportsmen.

We trappers stand on this common solid foundation with all sportsmen. It is important to fully understand the elements that define our necessity and maintain our relevance when going forward. Though we all regularly espouse the first two very significant blocks in our foundation as providing funds and harvesting the annual surplus the third aspect of providing scientific information is often overlooked. We trappers have been providing a tremendous quantity of information, samples, and observations for a very significant period of time. If a price were to be put on this contribution to wildlife science and study, the amount would be huge. Trappers are generally unaware of the major significance of this contribution and the general public has little clue also. It remains our task to find ways to better inform all parties about the significance of our very real and necessary contribution to the advancement of wildlife science. Most trappers can remember many different projects where they provided necessary service to wildlife scientists or managers, a continuous stream of data, questionnaires, tissue samples, hair samples, organs, or other body parts secured for research. Trapping effort expended in species relocation or focused to protect endangered species or sensitive habit has been utilized on numerous occasions to achieve the goals of wildlife or habitat managers. It remains the task of the trapping community to document these contributions and insure that all are well aware of the value provided. We at the New Hampshire Trappers Association have begun the practice of documenting this contribution and our record going forward will be archived on the Service Projects page of our website at www.nhtassoc.org.

Should wildlife biologists and managers ever lose the continuing input and assistance provided via a dynamic trapping, effort the ability to manage and advance science will be greatly diminished.

*Mel Liston, from Strafford, New Hampshire is a freelance writer, Trapper Education Instructor, Director for the New Hampshire Trappers Association and a member of the National Trappers Association and the Fur Takers of America.

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