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Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Legislature 2002

Senate votes to overturn initiative that curbed trapping

The Associated Press

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OLYMPIA — In a unique attempt to reverse a citizens initiative, the state Senate voted yesterday to repeal the sweeping ban on most animal trapping approved by Washington voters in 2000.

Initiative 713 bans body-gripping traps, along with two specific poisons, to capture any mammal for recreation or commerce in fur. Initiative sponsors, primarily the Humane Society of the United States, argued that such methods are cruel and inhumane. Nearly 55 percent of voters — 1.3 million people — agreed.

But 38 of 49 senators voted to repeal it yesterday, easily surpassing the two-thirds majority needed to amend an initiative within two years of its passage.

If the House agrees, I-713 would become the first initiative in state history to be completely repealed by the Legislature.

Its opponents argued that voters didn't know what they were approving, buying an emotional argument without weighing its effect on agriculture, logging and the manicured lawns of proud suburban homeowners.

"We need to turn this initiative over," said Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.

Since the initiative passed, wildlife complaints have increased drastically, from moles tearing up suburban soccer fields to beavers swamping reforested timberlands, to coyotes snatching lambs and calves from ranchers' fields.

"They've been devastated by coyotes and other predatory animals," Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, said of the state's ranchers. "It was a mistake, and now we need to repair the damage."

The move marks the second attack lawmakers have mounted on a Humane Society initiative. The ban on hunting cougars with hounds mandated by 1996's I-655 was later weakened by the Legislature.

"It's absolutely outrageous that elected officials would even consider overturning a citizens initiative," said Lisa Wathne, director of the Humane Society's Pacific Northwest regional office and the initiative's sponsor. "We live in a state where we vote on things and the majority rules."

Sen. Adam Kline, one of the handful who opposed the repeal in the Senate, scolded his colleagues.

"Can you imagine if this were a certain other set of initiatives that cut taxes?" asked Kline, D-Seattle, referring to Tim Eyman's anti-tax ballot measures. "Anybody who suggested that would be shouted down."

Hargrove and other opponents of the trapping ban built a coalition of rural interests opposed to the entire initiatives and senators from cities and suburbs that have been plagued by moles and gophers since the initiative passed.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife interpreted the initiative to ban mole and gopher traps, although Wathne has always contended it does not.

"Good law-abiding citizens are out there breaking the law to protect their property," said Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard, who noted that a homeowner caught defending her lawn with a mole trap could theoretically pay a $5,000 fine and spend a year in jail.

I-713 passed in 13 counties and failed in 26. Eight of the 11 senators who voted against the repeal represent King County, where 62 percent of voters approved the initiative.

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