The timing itself suggests an extraordinary degree of tone-deafness. Just weeks after the Walter Palmer trophy-hunting escapade in Zimbabwe made international headlines, and the day after MSNBC releases a damning anti-trophy hunting documentary called Blood Lions, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee is poised to provide a legislative gift bag to the trophy-hunting and trapping lobbies.
The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 2406) is about many things, but it is not about helping the rank-and-file sportsman.
In part, it is about appeasing the one percent of hunters who are into international trophy killing – men like Walter Palmer, who fork over big dollars to travel the world and kill the rarest, most majestic creatures. The bill promises a sweetheart deal for 41 trophy hunters pleading for a congressional carve-out to import the trophies of polar bears they previously killed in Canada. These hunters rushed to Canada, despite repeated warnings that they wouldn’t be allowed to bring their kills into the country because of the Bush Administration’s pending “threatened” listing for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, and paid as much as $50,000 each to hunt these bears in the hope of bringing rare polar bear trophies home. These hunters — many of whom, like Walter Palmer, hunted lions and other majestic species around the globe — believed that they could use their political power to receive a congressional bailout to import these 41 dead polar bears, and many in the House Natural Resources Committee seem intent on proving them right.
After Walter Palmer’s lion-shooting gambit, 44 airlines said they won’t transport trophies from lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, or Cape buffalo. I imagine that if they got the grisly details of these Arctic-area polar bear hunts, they wouldn’t much want to transport those trophies either. The American public is also overwhelmingly opposed to trophy hunting and trophy imports, according to a new Remington Research Group survey, which found that two thirds of Americans oppose trophy hunting and 74 percent oppose the “canned hunts,” which Blood Lions exposes as the source of so many American trophy hunters’ kills.
This bill is also about poaching – and preventing the government from stopping it. Specifically, the bill seeks to block a rule-making action by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to crack down on the commercial trade in ivory. President Obama announced this provision on his recent trip to Africa, noting that demand for ivory has contributed to an African elephant poaching crisis of epic proportions – more than 100,000 elephants were killed from 2010 to 2012. More recently, Obama and the President of China agreed to collaborate on a plan to stop commercial trade and prevent elephants from going the way of the woolly mammoth. If the SHARE Act passes, it would bring the Administration’s efforts to curb the U.S. ivory trade to a screeching halt. It’s hard to fathom that serious-minded people could support such a provision – and the selfishness of subverting the global community’s effort to crack down on this problem is breathtaking..
The bill has other terrible provisions to promote cruel commercial trapping on federal lands, to bar federal agencies from regulating toxic lead ammunition that poisons wildlife, and to grant bow hunters access to our national parks. The whole bill, with one ugly provision after another, is rotten to its core. But apparently because the NRA and Safari Club International want it, a large number of lawmakers will genuflect and give them what they want.
Some lawmakers, notably Representatives Raúl Grijalva, D-AZ, and Don Beyer, D-VA, are poised to offer amendments during Thursday’s committee markup to remove some of the most heinous language in the bill. It is shocking that, at a time when the House Natural Resources Committee should be protecting endangered species from trophy hunters and helping the United States fight the ivory trade, it is doing precisely the opposite. It is almost surreal, and it is one of the biggest bright-line indicators that the trophy-hunting lobby has captured a major faction of the United States Congress.