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Afton trapping policy stakes out middle ground

Over the past several weeks, Afton City Council has addressed an issue some of us might think has been left to history – trapping.

Though trapping to today’s suburb dwellers might conjure images of early Minnesota settlers arriving at a trading post with a sack of pelts slung over the backs, the fact is trapping remains a steady practice for many Minnesotans. Indeed, the Minnesota Trappers Association – a group that is alive and well – pays homage to trapping’s history on its website, where it notes that the group was started in 1959 to help “perpetuate the nation's oldest industry - the fur trade.”

Over time, trapping has diminished and is no longer the widespread activity it once was in Minnesota, though the industry continues to survive. More than 20 fur buyers remain around the state. That includes an outfit in Marine on St. Croix, which isn’t far from Afton.

Wildlife is a common presence in the riverside community of Afton, and while it’s unclear exactly how popular trapping is there, the practice was enough to draw the attention from its City Council.

Last week, Afton City Council took what we saw as a balanced approach to regulating trapping inside city limits. The council’s decision outlaws trapping on public grounds – a change that may be welcomed by hikers who should have a reasonable expectation that taking their dogs into the woods won’t mean placing them in harm’s way.

The decision also shores up a little known detail in state law allowing traps to be set on private property. Afton now requires trappers to obtain a permit from the city and to receive permission from private property owners before traps can be set.

This only seems like common sense. Besides, asking permission to venture onto other people’s  land just seems like a very Minnesotan thing to do.

The ordinance doesn’t go so far as to outlaw trapping, as an initial proposal had called for. That’s good; we’re glad to see Afton didn’t place a “stay out” sign for would-be trappers. Instead, the council found a reasonable middle ground that allows the venerable practice to continue, but with safety and courtesy as conditions.