One of the best-known truths in American politics that’s evident in the news cycle in recent days is that a majority of the Congress is in the hip pocket of the NRA. Quite often, this means that good judgment and sound policy are cast aside in favor of hewing to the orthodoxy of this extremist organization.
Such fealty will be on display tomorrow in the U.S. House of Representatives, and none of us should tolerate it. The House is scheduled to take up a perfectly outrageous bill at the behest of the NRA and other players in the trophy hunting industry. It’s H.R. 4089, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012,” and it’s an omnibus bill that will weaken the Marine Mammal Protection Act by allowing polar bear trophy hunters to import sport-hunted bears from Canada; open up millions of acres of sensitive public lands to hunting; and further delay the inevitable switchover by hunters from using toxic lead shot to non-toxic ammunition.
One infamous provision of this bill would allow American trophy hunters to import dead polar bears killed in sport hunts in Canada prior to their listing as a species threatened with extinction. This is just the latest reprieve proposed by hunting enthusiasts in Congress to allow for imports of polar bear trophies. Polar bears are an iconic symbol of the changes wrought by climate change in the Arctic environment. The last thing they need is trophy hunters chasing them down and then shooting them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a federal court have rejected previous requests to import trophies after 2008, and that should be the final word on the subject. There should be no more allowances of trophy hunting imports―because each time it happens, it just encourages more hunters to go up and kill polar bears and then to plead to Congress for import allowances since the bears are already dead. A series of import allowances is a de facto green light for American hunters to kill more bears.
But the bill’s even worse than that. Another outrageous provision will open up huge swaths of protected wilderness areas to public hunting, and facilitate sport hunting in national parks by requiring the National Park Service to use “volunteer” hunters to carry out wildlife management programs within the park system―even though Congress has long prohibited the practice on these lands. There are already hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, and national wildlife refuges open to recreational hunting. Yet this bill explicitly requires federal agencies to facilitate recreational hunting opportunities on nearly all federal lands regardless of impacts on traditionally protected habitats, and it exempts all federal agency decisions about recreational hunting or shooting from environmental review.
Finally, it would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from stopping the use of lead shot, which poisons millions of wild animals every year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already banned the use of lead ammunition for waterfowl hunting for more than two decades, over the objections of the NRA and the hunting lobby. Waterfowl hunting continues to thrive under the lead ammunition ban. We should use the best available science, whether it’s the Department of the Interior or the EPA, to stop the reckless poisoning of millions of animals every year.
This is the trophy hunters’ dream bill―an aggregation of all of their most repugnant ideas in one omnibus package. Please contact Congress today to speak out against this destructive wildlife proposal. Please also forward to friends who can call their U.S. Representative at 202-225-3121 and urge him or her to oppose H.R. 4089.