Wolves, Bears, and Other Imperiled Wildlife in Crosshairs of Bill Set for Action in U.S. House Today
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives takes up a bill that amounts to a grab bag of destructive measures related to trophy hunting, predator killing, and wildlife poisoning under the innocuous-sounding name of the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 2406). It’s critical that you contact your U.S. House member this morning (you can call the Congressional switchboard at 202-225-3121 and be connected with the office of your U.S. Representative) and urge him or her to oppose this bill and any ugly provisions or amendments that would remove federal protections for wolves, expand the use of trapping on lands managed by the federal government, block efforts to restrict the use of toxic lead ammunition, block U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service efforts to stop the global ivory trade, and address overzealous and cruel predator killing programs in our National Wildlife Refuges. Each one of these provisions warrants opposition to the bill, and to assemble them all in one package makes this a must-defeat measure.
It is imperative that lawmakers hear from you this morning or by early afternoon. Here are some provisions coming up in this bill.
- An amendment from Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin would subvert two federal court rulings and cherry-pick gray wolves for removal from the federal list of endangered species for purely political reasons. When wolves were delisted in 2012, 20 percent of their Wisconsin population was wiped out in just one hunting season, including 17 entire family units. In a three-year period, more than 1,500 wolves were killed in the Great Lakes states alone. The federal courts put a stop to this reckless mistreatment and slaughter of wolves, and politicians shouldn’t undercut judicial review of delisting actions. We are urging House members to oppose the Ribble amendment, since it would lead to the slaughter of more than 1,000 wolves in the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, many with baiting, hound hunting, and painful leghold traps.
- An amendment by Rep. Don Young of Alaska seeks to block an Obama Administration proposed rule to stop the worst predator control and killing practices on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. Brown bear baiting, aerial gunning, and other forms of slaughtering our nation’s top carnivores should not happen anywhere, but least of all on federal lands designated as national wildlife refuges. Alaska doesn’t own the refuges – all Americans do – and what a travesty to allow these lands set aside for wildlife to become a playground for the most extreme and inhumane trophy hunters and trappers. We are urging House members to oppose this amendment, which undercuts the work of professional wildlife managers in Alaska to halt these practices on this category of federal lands.
- A provision already exists within this bill to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from making final a rulemaking to close loopholes and better crack down on the illegal ivory trade that fuels catastrophic elephant poaching. Elephants are in crisis and the United States is the second largest retail market for ivory, and we know that terrorist groups in Africa finance the killing of civilians and their attacks on governments by killing elephants and selling the ivory so they can buy guns and other weapons.
- The bill has a provision to bar any bureau, service, or office of the Department of Interior or Department of Agriculture from further efforts to protect the public, wildlife, and environment from toxic lead ammunition. This seeks to block federal wildlife managers from making biologically sound decisions, and flies in the face of the rhetoric to conduct science-based management. Lead poisoning kills 15 to 20 million wild animals every year (and poses a risk for hunting families too, since the meat from animals shot and cooked for the table can contain tiny lead shards). Such haphazard poisoning of our wildlife can be avoided if sport hunters switch to widely available non-toxic ammunition, such as steel, copper, and bismuth. Now that we’ve seen how inaction from government in Flint, Michigan, caused lead poisoning in people, do we really want to stop our federal agencies from cracking down on the biggest source of lead released into the environment and waterways?
- One provision already in the bill would give commercial and recreational trappers priority access to the more than 100 million acres of pristine wilderness areas across the nation. This provision weakens the landmark Wilderness Act that Congress established a half century ago, to preserve wild areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Steel-jawed leghold traps are cruel and indiscriminate, acting as landmines for wildlife and catching whatever hapless creatures step into the vise grip of the devices.
- Another provision of the bill would roll back the Marine Mammal Protection Act and provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 wealthy polar bear trophy hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. It’s one thing to shoot a deer and eat the meat, and it’s another to fly up to the Arctic Circle, drop $40,000 on a guided trophy hunt, and shoot a threatened species – all for the head and the hide and the bragging rights that go along with it. It’s just the latest in a series of these import allowances for polar bear hunters, and it encourages trophy hunters to kill rare species around the world and then wait for a congressional waiver to bring back their trophies.
There’s not one regular deer or duck hunter who gets anything out of this bill. Any lawmaker who claims he’s for sportsmen by supporting this bill is guilty of grandstanding, and voters will sniff out this kind of trickery and political bait-and-switch maneuvering. It’s hard to believe there can be so much that is bad in a single bill, but with the provisions already in it, and the prospects of the Ribble and Young amendments making its impact even worse, this is the most destructive anti-wildlife proposal ever to come to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Please call your House members today.
If Congress exhibits the worst of judgment and caves in to the trophy-hunting lobby by passing this scam of a bill, we’ll call upon President Obama to give it a clean kill shot.