Sharing the forests
In any event, we don’t see why the group of taxpayers who like hiking, snowshoeing and the like during the colder months of the year are not entitled to as full an enjoyment of the woods as their trapper compatriots. Nor is it clear to us that they form any smaller a subset of the taxpaying population.
The situation can be improved immensely—without banning trapping—to ensure that all members of the state’s population who want to enjoy the forests throughout the year can do so without fear. First, there should be regulations that any traps must be set back a certain amount, say 30 feet, from public trails. Second, signs ought to be posted at the heads of trails notifying users that, during such and such months, there may be traps in the vicinity. We also think both the PGC and the DEC should develop educational materials for the public containing information on the types of traps that may be encountered in our state forests and instructions on how to extricate our pets or children should they become “restrained” in one.
If the revenue of nearly $700,000 from current licenses is not sufficient to pay for such preventive measures, then a dollar or two could be added to the fees—which would still probably be cheaper than the other fair alternative, of using license fee money to pay damages to citizens whose pets or children are injured in the traps.
If some such steps as those outlined above are not taken, we will continue to see random citizens hit with hundreds of dollars in veterinary or medical bills, not to mention the possibility of permanent physical damage, for an activity in which they do not participate and may not even condone. In a state forest system which encourages multiple recreational uses of its tax-supported lands, that is unacceptable. And it needs to change.