ESCANABA - Even in its most contemporary mode, to visit and view a trapper applying their craft is truly a trip back in time. It is the trapper who set the standards for many aspects of today's conservation efforts.
During the transition and development of conservation in the early 1900's by extraordinary people like Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold and John Audubon, some furbearing species of wild game continued in decline.
It would take another 40 years to educate the public to understand how market harvest exploitation should only be applicable to the growing of crops. It was a time when the term eco-system management first came to light, only to lay dormant for the most part until the turn of this century.
A book on guides to better trapping was written by Tom Krause
I believe most of this transition was accomplished by the example of the trapper.
More importantly, it is the trapper of the Upper Peninsula who set the fundamental standards of all trapping, which led to the creation and continuation of the National Trappers Association (NTA).
According to the NTA Trapping Handbook written by Tom Krause, the national organization, "was initiated in 1957 when a small group of trappers met in the UP of Michigan to form a defense against legislative bills to ban the annual harvests of furbearers and predators or prevent the tools necessary to accomplish beneficial wildlife management objectives.
"The 'National Trappers Association of America' was declared operational on Jan. 1, 1959, and 'of America' was dropped from the name when incorporation occurred in February, 1969."
It is the firm belief of the NTA that continued uneducated attacks by anti-factions against trapping "is really considered to be the first step in eliminating the taking of wildlife by any means, including hunting and fishing too."
Given the close public scrutiny under which they must operate, the NTA makes clear the four principals that all who trap must understand and follow as examples of natural resources stewards:
1. Trapping only occurs with the permission of society. (No one has the right to trap. It is an earned privilege.)
2. We may be the only trapper representatives in our communities. (The only trapper your friends and neighbors might ever know is you.)
3. Trapping is essential to effective wildlife management and is important to all Americans. (Without the ability to use traps and trapping programs, state agencies would face severe limits on essential research, reintroduction and recovery projects for threatened and endangered species, protection of livestock, protection of natural resources as well as private property, rapid response to invasive species problems, disease surveillance and control, and nuisance animal problems in cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas.)
4. Trappers must organize and participate in their own destiny. (Because trappers are so few and attacks against trapping are so well financed, trappers must organize, communicate and act with a unified voice when called upon to defend trapping.)
I feel compelled to add that the trappers also need the allegiance of all conservation organizations and all should act as one in defending the wise use of our natural resources, again following the intent of our forefathers.
In January of 1962, just over a half dozen trappers, thinking into the future, met in the living room of Leonard and Ester Lahti in L'Anse. It was to be the beginning of the UP Trapper's Association.
Even though most of the founders are now deceased, the ground work they laid out has served to create an organization that has not only survived into the next century but continues to grow and thrive.
Those who continue in the applied craft of trapping do so out of passion for the outdoors. Monies derived from the sale of furs only serves to defray part of the cost they endure. Prices for the sale of pelts just a few years ago actually matched those paid back in 1922.
To be properly outfitted today is an investment with an incomprehensible return, except for the enjoyment of the experience achieved while being outdoors.
It is a great time for mentoring where youth learn responsibilities, how to work towards goals, and the satisfaction of knowing they play a key role in the survival of many species of wildlife.
To celebrate their accomplishments, each year the UP Trapper's Association hosts a convention, putting most of the needs of today's trappers all in one place.
It is a two-day program allowing discounted prices on gear, excellent demonstrations on the latest techniques of trapping, fleshing, and skinning. It is also here that the trappers can caucus on the politics of conservation and thus formulate needed and unified responses.
You will have a chance to perhaps step back in time and experience the core of our outdoors heritage as the UP Trappers hold their 2009 Annual Convention in the Ruth Butler Building, on the UP State Fairgrounds in Escanaba.
There will be two big days of events July 17-18 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.. The event is hosted by District 3, representing Delta, Dickinson and Menominee Counties.
here will be trapping and fur handling demonstrations, lure and trapping supply dealers, skinning, fleshing, and stretching demonstrations, along with raffles, exhibits and guest speakers. Food and refreshments will be available and anyone can buy, sell or trade equipment.
Admission is $2. Ages 16 and younger are admitted free. Camping is also available on the State Fairgrounds.
For further information, call Rick Arduin (906-498-7659 or 906-498-2261), or Bob Steinmetz (906-786-6265).
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.