I tossed and turned almost the entire night.
It wasn’t a nightmare that roiled me.
It was yesterday’s awful spectacle in the U.S. Senate.
By a 52 to 47 vote, senators approved, on a party-line vote, their colleague Dan Sullivan’s resolution to rescind a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rulemaking action that forbids the most inhumane and unsporting practices ever contemplated in the era of modern wildlife management on national wildlife refuges.
I couldn’t stop thinking about grizzly bears being chased by a plane or helicopter. The pilot dumps the hunter close to the grizzly, and the hunter shoots the magnificent animal dead. All for a trophy.
I couldn’t stop thinking about some other poor bear, just trying to gather enough food and water to survive, traipsing through a forest or on the tundra, and being snagged in a snare that’s staked to a tree or planted deep into the ground. The noose constricts, digging deeper through fur and flesh and tightening with every mighty pull. This first loss of freedom stirs every muscle to resist and every instinct to flee, but to no avail. Hours and hours pass. The cold wrestles down the quarry in a different way. The injured leg swells, the blood unable to flow past the snare. The lower limb starts to wither. The whole body is numb from the bitter cold. Fear and suffering spike. Eventually the creature gives up.
And I couldn’t stop thinking about a man killing a mother wolf and indeed the entire pack, who are easy targets as they remain close to the den site to provide for and take care of their young. The pups are anxious and excited for their return. They don’t know they’ll never again see their mother and other providers who have been killed and dragged away. The pups wait and wait, not understanding what’s unfolding. Hunger and thirst sink in. Their bodies start to break down. Organ failure sets in. Death comes.
Not a single Republican stood against the barbarism packed into H. J. Res. 69. And not one of them stood for the principle that it was Congress that vested power in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have the final say on wildlife management practices on national wildlife refuges.
Together, they enabled a putsch. An overthrow of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authority.
The federal government will pay the bill for staffing the refuge, but the state will call the shots. That means these 16 national wildlife refuges will become killing fields for trophy hunters and trappers and baiters and spring hunters. When Congress enacted the Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act in 1980, lawmakers never imagined such a design. Their purpose in enacting ANILCA was to set aside places for the wildlife and the tourists who’d come to see them — the animals, of course, would be unharmed and no worse for it.
I am so proud of New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, himself an ardent sportsman, and Sens. Dick Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., for deconstructing the phony arguments advanced by the backers of H.J. Res. 69. If they had been arguing the case in front of a jury, they would have carried every fair-minded juror considering the evidence and honoring a standard of decency.
They eviscerated the phony states’ rights arguments advanced by their colleagues. Their phony subsistence hunting arguments. Their inaccurate representations of the views of Alaskans.
My thanks go also to the thousands of caring Americans like you who wrote and called your senators to block this disgraceful resolution. You are a credit to our society, standing up for what’s good and right about this country and about humankind itself.
But in our system of government, there are no guarantees. Right does not always prevail. We’ve had some ugly chapters in our history when southern Senators blocked civil rights bills. When lawmakers mocked women’s suffrage. We’ve gone through a lot of that in our own movement, too.
The lawmakers in Washington who voted in the majority yesterday do not represent the views of regular Americans on animal welfare or wildlife conservation. On wildlife issues at least, they are captives of special interests who want to kill wildlife for their pleasure.
But this is not the last word on the subject. It cannot be the last word.
Dust yourself off. Grieve for the victims. Tell the Republicans what you think.
Await guidance on our next move. We are developing plans. Let’s struggle on.