How animals won in five states
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1996:
WASHINGTON D.C.––Captive-duck shooter Bill
Clinton and trophy hunting advocate Albert Gore remain in the
White House, but Congressional script on animal issues may be
quite a bit different in the 105th Congress, not only because
foes of the Endangered Species Act took a beating on November
5, but also because the results of five state initiative campaigns
show animal protection voting clout, just beginning to be organized,
ignored by the Democrats, reviled by wise-use
Republicans, but acknowledged by Speaker of the House Newt
• Massachusetts voted 64% to 36% to ban leghold or
body-gripping traps and snares, ban hunting bears and bobcats
with dogs, and restructure the state Fisheries and Wildlife
Board, ending a requirement that a majority of members be
licensed hunters, fishers, or trappers.
• Washington voted 63% to 37% to ban baiting and/or
hunting bears, pumas, bobcats, and lynx with dogs.
• Alaska voted 57% to 43% for Measure 3, barring
“same-day airborne” hunting of wolves, wolverines, foxes, or
lynx. The measure means hunters not only can’t strafe the animals,
already prohibited on federal lands under the 1974
Airborne Hunting Act, but also can’t spot them from the air,
then land to kill them, perhaps after illegally chasing them to
• Oregon turned back hunters’ efforts to repeal the
1994 initiative that banned bear and puma hunting with dogs.
The repeal measure got just 37% of the vote.
• Fifty-two percent of Colorado voters approved a
constitutional amendment to ban all leghold and/or body-gripping
Of 25 habitat-related state ballot measures, 19 passed,
according to Americans for the Environment executive director
Roy Morgan. The 76% rate of passage for habitat bills far
exceeded the 65% passage rate in 1990, and the 60% rate
achieved in 1992 and 1994.
ICR Research, of Media, Pennsyvlania, reported that
of 788 voters surveyed in a national poll just before the election,
85% considered habitat issues in deciding how to vote, up 55%
Gingrich (R-Georgia), handily re-elected with 58% of
the vote, just a week before the election expressed hope in an
open letter to George magazine editor John Kennedy Jr. “that
through continued education, our society will learn to foster a
kind, compassionate, caring and humane attitude toward the
treatment of animals.” Responding to PETA allegations that
Poncho, an African lion shown with Gingrich on the cover of
the August edition, had been abused at a training facility in
Orlando, Florida, the Speaker said he was “disturbed by reports
that Poncho has been mistreated,” adding, “If the reports are
true, I am both disappointed and outraged.”
A longtime heavy financial backer of Zoo Atlanta,
Gingrich may be aware that reform of the ESA to stress incentives
rather than penalties might be much more easily achieved if
advanced by spokespersons linked to animal protection rather
than aggressive assertion of private property rights.
No such considerations were evident in the
Clinton/Gore camp. Clinton, holding early endorsements from
the Sierra Club and other habitat-oriented groups, joined
Congress––including Gingrich––in tossing favors to hunters.
Clinton and Gore made no secret of hoping to gain whatever
votes former Kansas Senator Robert Dole lost in losing the
endorsement of the National Rifle Association for failing to
back repeal of the 1994 federal ban on the sale of assault rifles.
Among the boons dispensed to hunters were a guaranteed
permanent water supply for the Mountain Fork Trout
Fishery in Oklahoma, a land swap in Oklahoma between
Weyehauser Co. and the U.S. Forest Service that opened 75,000
acres to hunting, the addition of 5,000 acres to National
Wildlife Refuges used for waterfowling along the Texas coast,
and a series of executive orders opening 23 more wildlife
refuges to hunting and 18 to fishing––meaning that recreational
wildlife-killing now occurs within more than half of the refuge
system, in keeping with Clinton’s spring executive recognition
of hunting as an official refuge function.
Finishing well out of contention in the presidential
race, Dole did win the approval of New York Times reporters
for offering campaign lunches that apparently always included
at least one vegetarian entre. By comparison, the Times complained,
the Clinton press menu consisted of, “Turkey sandwich;
cold turkey sandich; wet turkey sandwich; cold, wet
turkey sandwich; repeat in order.”
Dole, awarded the Albert Schweitzer Medal by the
Animal Welfare Institute in 1976 for distinguished service to
animal protection, was the only presidential candidate to furnish
a position statement on animals to Compassion Campaign
1996, the quadrennial effort of the Farm Animal Reform
Movement to focus political attention on animal issues. Joining
FARM this year were In Defense of Animals, the International
Fund for Animal Welfare, the Massachusetts SPCA, the
Animal Legislative Action Network, and PETA.
Independent of presidential and vice presidential candidates
Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke, the Green Party late
in the campaign issued a position paper calling for the reintroduction
of native species to habitat from which they have been
extirpated; elimination of predator control on public lands; an
end to wetlands drainage; strengthening the ESA; phasing out
factory farming; creating an agency independent of the USDA
to enforce federal animal welfare and environmental protection
laws; eliminating subsidies of the meat, poultry, and dairy
industries; ending livestock grazing on public lands; phasing
out animal experimentation; outlawing fur ranching and trapping;
banning puppy mills; subsidizing dog-and-cat neutering
clinics; and banning dog and horse racing, animal fighting,
fox hunting, rodeos, circuses, “and all other such spectacles.”
Nader, a longtime vegetarian, historically has not
opposed animal use in consumer product safety testing.
LaDuke has ardently defended hunting and the fur trade.
Animal and habitat protection groups spent more on
this year’s campaigns than ever before. The Sierra Club invested
$7.5 million, nearly $15 per dues-paying member, in active
support of Democratic candidates in 10 Senate races and 50
House races. Of the 222 Congressional candidates endorsed by
the Sierra Club, 154 were elected.
The National Rifle Association, the leading opposition
spender, reportedly split $5 million among 200 candidates,
almost all of them Republicans. The success rate of the NRAbacked
candidates was not announced.
At least one other habitat protection organization,
the League of Conservation Voters, reportedly put at least $1
million into campaigning.
Contributions by animal protection groups were comparatively
paltry. The Humane Society of the U.S. spent about
$250,000 nationwide to support anti-hunting and anti-trapping
initiatives, HSUS vice president for political affairs Wayne
Pacelle told Bill Varner of USA Today. The Fund for Animals
put $75,000 into the failed Michigan campaign to ban spring
bear hunting and bear baiting––but hunting groups spent $1.5
million in Michigan, two-thirds of it reportedly from the NRA
and Safari Club International, and spent another $370,000 to
defeat a similar initiative in Idaho.
Where anti-hunting and trapping ballot initiatives
won, supporters outspent opponents. In Massachusetts, for
instance, opponents of Question 1 organized as the Citizens
Conservation Coalition had raised $221,000 going into the last
month of the campaign, but supporters had raised $295,000,
including $100,000 from the Massachusetts SPCA, $50,000
from HSUS, and $50,000 from the International Fund for
Strategic spending also paid off in Alaska, tough
habitat for animal protection advocates, where the ban on
same-day air killing was backed by a Defenders of Wildlifedesigned
campaign with––reputedly––a planned budget of
$195,000. If it really was that much, the fundraising fell short;
the Wolf Management Reform Coalition, co-chaired by former
Alaska Board of Game members Doug Pope and Joel Bennett,
actually raised and spent $143,000. But more than two-thirds
of it came in small donations from Alaskans. Defenders put up
$21,000. Another $4,500 came from Friends of Animals,
$2,500 from the Connecticut-based Chase Wildlife Foundation,
and $1,000 from Wolf Haven International, of Washington
state. More than 3,000 individual donors gave $100 or less.
Opposing the ban, the Alaska Outdoor Council spent
only $13,000, said chair Dick Bishop, who told reporters the
low spending reflected not a failure of fundraising but a decision
to fight the initiative in court. “We think we can get it
thrown out,” Bishop said, “but it had to pass first.”
“In their dreams,” retorted Pope. “They better get a
The strategy behind the Massachusetts victory began
with an April 1995 telephone poll of 700 voters, the Center for
Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University revealed at a
November 15 press conference. Funded by HSUS, the poll
found 77% support for banning leghold traps, 74% support for
banning the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats, and 54%
support for the key item, breaking hunter control of the state
Fisheries and Wildlife Board. As 72% said they would support
a proposal to achieve all three goals, the three were combined
into one initiative, Question 1, listing first the most popular
goal, the abolition of leghold trapping. A follow-up survey of
300 voters found that of those who supported the initiative on
November 5, 62% voted for it because of the trapping issue.
Restructuring the Fisheries and Wildlife Board, by
itself, drew little interest because as MSPCA vice president
Carter Luke said, “You can’t make that into a bumper sticker.”
Massachusetts was an ideal state for such an initiative,
according to Tufts masters degree candidate Dena M.
Jones, a.k.a. Dena Jones Jolma in some guest columns for
ANIMAL PEOPLE, who as part of her thesis studied voting
trends in 16 previous animal protection initiative campaigns.
She discovered, as previous researchers have, that support for
animal protection is strongest among women, young people,
Democrats, and urban residents, who are more prominent
among the voters of states such as Massachusetts and Colorado
than, for instance, Michigan and Idaho.
Similar considerations shaped the Alaska campaign,
where polling discovered that male voters were just about
equally split over same-day airborne hunting, but female
Republicans were an undecided swing vote.
Jones didn’t comment on how her
data related to the pre-election claim of the
American Pet Products Manufacturers
Association that nationally, both cat and
dog owners tend to be Republicans, while
reptile, fish, and bird owners are more
often Democrats. The APPMA data directly
contradicts the rugged individualist image
cultivated by many snake-fanciers, and conventional
political wisdom that sees pet
owners as an essentially liberal constitutency.
Jones is reportedly now helping a
drive to put a cockfighting ban on the 1998
Arizona ballot. James Massey, of Tucson,
president of Citizens Against Cockfighting,
filed the proposal on November 8, and now
has until July 2, 1998, to obtain the
112,961 verified voter signatures required to
put the question on the ballot. Passage is
predicted by a recent poll conducted
by the Phoenix-based
Behavior Research Center,
which found 70% of Arizonans
oppose betting on cockfights, while only 26% favor keeping
cockfights legal. Arizona political history is favorable: in
1994, Arizona voters barred traps from public land.
An apparent spinoff of the Massachusetts campaign is
rising attention to trapping incidents in nearby states. On
November 13, for instance, Foster’s Daily Democrat in Lee,
New Hampshire, described the slow death of a dog named
Rommel, half-Labrador, half German wirehair, in front of
owner Ashley Leonard, 13, and five other children, after he
nosed a Conibear trap near the Lamprey River on land owned
by the University of New Hampshire. The trap snapped on his
neck. Leonard and her parents couldn’t release the trap in time
to prevent strangulation. The same day, the Times-Union, of
Albany, New York, described how an emaciated young female
raccoon, also caught by the neck in a Conibear trap, “somehow
thrashed, crawled, and rolled” into the middle of a fourlane
highway. State trooper Michael Schneider reluctantly shot
the raccoon, who was in an area where rabid raccoons have
been found, after a passer-by failed in an attempt to release her.
“To be humane, I couldn’t just leave her,” Schneider said.
Such incidents were staples of the Massachusetts
campaign. The notice could signify growing pressure for trap
bans or restrictions elsewhere, too.
The Washington Wildlife Alliance, a coalition of
more than 70 often conflicting groups including the Sierra Club
and the National Audubon Society, barely got Washington
state Initiative 655 on the ballot. It qualified on September 24
with just 905 signatures to spare. The Washington Department
of Fish and Wildlife went as far as it could to rally opposition to
the initiative, but just two days after passage viewed it as a pretext
for getting another $1 million a year from the legislature.
“Even before the initative, we submitted a request for
31 more enforcement officers to handle increasing complaints
about cougars and black bears,” spokesperson Tim Waters
said. “The initiative may give our request more urgency.”
The Idaho bear protection proposal failed, 60% to
40%, as bear defenders were outspent by as much as 5-1.
In other wildlife-related initiatives, Alabama
enshrined a “sportsmen’s bill of rights” in the state constitution.
West Virginia mandated that all revenues from hunting and
fishing license sales must go toward wildlife management.
Arkansas approved giving an eighth of one percent of state
sales tax revenue to the state Game and Fish Commission.
The Michigan outcome, however, was a major disappointment
to many. Early polls indicated that Proposal D,
the Michigan bear protection initiative, was going to pass––but
Michigan has the highest per capita rate of hunting participation
in the U.S., and blue-collar Caucasian men dominate the
electorate. Hunting groups poured money into the state, while
the legislature put a second initiative on the ballot, Proposal G,
which if passed with more votes than Proposal D would supersede
it. Under Proposal G, all authority over wildlife manage
ment goes to appointed officials, not subject to voter review.
K.L. Cool, director of the Michigan Department of
Natural Resources, liked that idea, not least because it markedly
increases the authority of his office––and he said so in a
series of TV ads, attacking Proposal D but boosting G.
Representing the Fund for Animals, Cynthia
Bostwick of Port Huron on October 31 complained to the
Michigan Bureau of Elections that, “The actions by Director
Cool are clearly prohibited by Michigan Attorney General opinions
and Michigan law.”
But existing Michigan law didn’t seem to concern the
supporters of bear-hunting. The leading financial backer of
Proposal G was reportedly the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s
Alliance, whose vice president, Steven Kenry Kolbach of Iron
River, “has been arrested 14 times,” the Fund noted in an
October 30 press release. “Of his 14 arrests, including for the
sale of illegal bear parts, unlawful use of a cage trap, unlicensed
taxidermy, possession of a rifle in a restricted area after
sunset, and concealed handgun possession––five have resulted
Proposal D lost, 59% to 41%; Proposal G passed,
68% to 32%.
Not one to roll over and play dead, Fund representative
Michael Chiado said, “We are excited about the possibility
of a compassionate governor, not our current one, appointing
wildlife commissioners who are animal-friendly.”
Chiado noted some Michigan victories, as three of
four counties whose voters were asked to end Sunday hunting
bans instead reaffirmed them.
A sidelight of the 1996 campaign was the appearance
of several regionally known animal rights advocates on ballots.
Stephen Smith, shelter veterinarian for the Humane
Society of the Tennessee Valley, prominent in local Earth
First! protests, won the Democratic primary in Tennessee
Congressional District 2, but polled just 29% of the vote
against Republican incumbent John Duncan.
Julie Lewin, however, longtime Fund for Animals
representative in Connecticut, lost her last-minute bid for the
19th district seat in the Connecticut assembly by just 390 of the
11,763 votes cast.
Drafted on July 21 by the 19th district Democratic
committee, who liked her presentations against hunting on
local water district land, Lewin had never before sought public
office, had never considered running, she told A N I M A L
P E O P L E, had no personal wealth to put into the effort, no
family in the traditionally conservative West Hartford district,
and faced 16-year Republican incumbent Bob Farr, who polled
65% of the vote in 1994.
Knocking on every door she could get to, Lewin
raised a campaign budget of $20,000, and won nine precincts,
including Farr’s own. Farr took approximately the same number
of votes as in each of the two previous elections; Lewin
drew 2,000 more votes than Farr’s previous opponent.
The most important aspect of the campaign, Lewin
indicated to ANIMAL PEOPLE afterward, was that voters
seemed unperturbed by attacks on her history in animal rights
activism. They fell flat, Lewin said, perhaps because there
aren’t many hunters or factory farmers in West Hartford.
The newly enfranchised Republican majority in the
104th Congress made dismantling the ESA a top priority––but
while a long moratorium on adding new species to the “endangered”
and “threatened” lists did serious damage, along with
budget cuts, the ESA survived largely intact, with renewed
Moves remain afoot, with broad-based support, to
amend controversial provisions, and perhaps to shift the focus.
The Washington Post, for instance, on November 12 editorially
asked Clinton to set forth a positive environmental agenda,
including the conversion of the ESA into a “pre-endangered
In the 105th Congress, however, there is likely to be
much less bold and belligerant talk––as Senator Slade Gorton
(R-Washington), who authored one of the major anti-ESA
bills during the 104th Congress, acknowledged at a November
13 press conference.
Republican leaders remember that Bill Clinton
appeared to have little chance of re-election until he won public
acclaim during the fall and winter of 1995-1996 for repeatedly
vetoing budget bills including anti-ESA riders. And six prominent
Congressional wise-users lost their seats on November 5,
including Senators Jim Ross Lightfoot (R-Iowa) and Larry
Pressler (R-South Dakota), along with House members Jim
Longley (R-Maine), Fred Heineman (R-Maine), Randy Tate
(R-Washington), and Michael Flanagan
Seizing the hour, the Wilderness
Society and Republicans for
Environmental Protection on November 14
announced a national petition drive to
remove Alaska Republicans Don Young
and Frank Murkowski from their positions
as chairs of the House and Senate committees
on natural resource issues.
The announcement competed for
national media notice with a Supreme
Court hearing the same day of a suit
wherein a group of Oregon ranchers and
irrigation districts argue that the Interior Department overstepped
necessity when it limited the release of water from the
Klamath Irrigation Project along the Oregon/California border
in 1992 to protect two endangered fish species, the Lost River
sucker and the shortnose sucker. At issue is whether the ESA
allows citizens to sue over alleged excessive enforcement of the
act, as well as in response to alleged underenforcement. The
case has already been rejected by the Federal District Court in
Eugene, Oregon, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in
The Klamath suit is a reminder that the ESA regained
popularity in 1996 despite the continuance of many long, bitter
fights of a similar nature. Some surfaced as election issues,
including in the Florida Keys, where voters opposed the designation
of 2,800 square miles of surrounding waters as a
National Marine Sanctuary, 55% to 45%.
Dave Hughes of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, in
Fort Smith, incensed voters in President Clinton’s home state
just nine days before the election with an expose of how in
compliance with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit requirements
issued under the ESA, the city spent $100,000 over the
past four years to capture, tag, and release 58 endangered
American burying beetles at the municipal landfill.
Controversial court cases are underway over grizzly
bear protection on state and federally owned Montana timber
leases, the potential risk to the southwestern willow flycatcher
from expansion of the Roosevelt Dam in Arizona, the destruction
of Florida scrub jay habitat by Florida rancher Jeff Worley,
who repeatedly ignored warnings from the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, and delays in protecting various allegedly
endangered or threatened species, including jaguars, cactus
pygmy owls, and Sonoran tiger salamanders.
The latter four were among the species named in an
August suit by the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity,
which if upheld might have interrupted the construction of
fences along the U.S./Mexican border to obstruct illegal immigration.
That possibility was forestalled when in September the
104th Congress wrote an ESA waiver into the Immigration bill.
Clinton, after vetoing the initial version of the bill, signed a
revised edition on October 1 with the ESA waiver intact.
Avoiding a fight, Clinton denied ESA opponents the
opportunity to link two visceral grudges and perhaps create a
“wedge” issue to divide his political support. Backing off in
this instance may have strengthened the ESA in the long run by
closing a chance to attack it. Clinton used similar tactics in
delaying ESA listing decisions involving endangered Pacific
salmon runs until after the election, and in imposing the ESA
listing moratorium, which prevented new clashes involving
obscure species and powerful economic interests just when the
Congressional wise-users were strongest.
With the media spotlight on conflicts dimmed,
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and staff at the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service during
the summer quietly introduced new regulations for listing and
managing endangered species’ critical habitat. In July, Babbitt
resolved one of several conflicts over development of
California gnatcatcher habitat in southern California, announcing
a deal that sets aside a 38,000-acre reserve for the gnatcatcher
and 41 other endangered or threatened species, while
allowing work to proceed in other areas where the gnatcatcher
and other rare species may be found.
An August 22 intervention in timber
leasing in the Sierra Nevada mountains
of California threatened to reinflame the long
battle over the status of spotted owls, but
was counterbalanced by the October buyout––for
$3.5 million––of Anderson &
Middleton Logging Co. rights to 72 acrres of
1,000-year-old cedar, hemlock, and
Douglas fir trees on the Olympic peninsula
in Washington. The buyout ended a lawsuit,
just about to go to trial after three years of
delay, which was widely expected to be a
landmark test of the ESA. The government
was believed to have a weak case because of
a lack of evidence that spotted owls actually
inhabit the stand, and because the Quinault
Indian Nation had been allowed to cut a similar
Days later, on October 10, U.S.
Forest Service chief Jack Ward Thomas, 62,
announced his retirement, after 40 years
with the Forest Service and three years in the
top position, to accept an endowed professorship
at the University of Montana. His
retirement signaled that the spotted owl wars may be over. The
only biologist ever to head the Forest Service, Thomas rose to
national prominence by warning Congress in 1990 that oldgrowth
logging in Oregon and Washington might drive the
spotted owl toward extinction. After his appointment by former
President George Bush, Thomas precipitated many of the
major court battles involving the owls by reducing the rate of
logging in national forests to 25% of the unsustainable level of
A third prolonged ESA-related fight ended in July,
when U.S. District Judge Carl A. Muecke lifted a year-long halt
of logging on Mount Graham, Arizona, allowing the $60 million
Large Binocular Telescope project to proceed––eight years
after Congress allocated the money. Opponents charged that
building three telescope sites on Mount Graham would endanger
a unique squirrel population. However, the squirrel numbers
have remained steady at an estimated median of about 300,
and the population has survived not only the completion of two
of the telescopes but also a major forest fire.