If you thought the Senate version of the Sportsmen’s Act – which was the subject of a recent hearing – was awful, the House version that was examined in committee today is even worse.
The House version is called the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act” (SHARE Act), H.R. 2406. Yet it includes language to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from adopting a rule to restrict the illegal ivory trade in the United States. What does that have to do with sportsmen who hunt deer, ducks, and other traditional prey? The answer: it has zero to do with sportsmen, and everything to do with AK-47-wielding poachers slaughtering elephants and sawing off their faces, destroying the economies of Africa in the process, and financing terrorists who are a threat to African and western nations.
That’s a good starting point for a bill that’s careened off course and has almost nothing to do with its title. H.R. 2406 helps no rank-and-file hunters. It’s a grab bag of items largely unrelated to, and disconnected from, hunting.
In addition to the elephant poaching provision, the bill provides an opportunity for a handful of ultra-wealthy trophy hunters to import sport-hunted polar bears killed in northern Canada. This is a special-interest provision, which carves out an exemption in the Marine Mammal Protection Act, that has no bearing on regular hunters who fill their freezers with venison. None of these millionaire trophy hunters, who paid as much as $50,000 to shoot a polar bear, ate the meat. They just went on a head-hunting exercise, and paid a fortune to do so.
The bill is also a boon to the small fraction of the U.S. population that engages in trapping live animals. The SHARE Act adds “trapping” to the definition of hunting. This provision would open up millions of acres of land to trapping: an inherently cruel and inhumane means of ensnaring animals like beavers, bobcats, and foxes. Each year, millions of animals, including pets, are killed in painful traps, and they try desperately to free themselves for hours or days before they succumb to dehydration, predators, or the trapper’s bludgeon. Recreational trapping with the worst body-gripping traps is banned or severely restricted in nine U.S. states and over 80 countries, and Congress should be working to end this cruel practice, rather than expanding it.
The House bill also goes a step further than its Senate companion bill on the issue of toxic lead ammunition. It takes away the regulatory authority of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect wildlife – and the public – from toxic lead ammunition. These agencies have already taken positive steps in requiring the use of non-lead alternatives for hunting certain species. In 1991, they put in place a nationwide measure requiring non-toxic shot for migratory waterfowl, after biologists estimated that millions of ducks were dying from lead poisoning. That federal rule has saved millions of birds annually from death by exposure to toxic lead, and it’s not put a dent in duck hunting. Now members of Congress want to take away the opportunity to build on this success – handcuffing federal agencies that have a duty to address ammunition that poisons millions of wild animals.
The SHARE Act, just like its Senate companion , will not benefit rank-and-file hunters, and will destroy years of work done by animal protection advocates, environmentalists, and conservationists to protect endangered species and other wildlife. It is a special interest bill masquerading as a measure for sportsmen. Rank-and-file sportsmen, and the lawmakers who care about them, should not be deceived. Please call your members of Congress to ask them not to support these cruel bills.