21 December 2007

Interior Appropriations Bill Omits Hunting Ban

Federal lawmakers have protected polar bear hunting, but a looming decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could eliminate the hunt and cripple conservation efforts, according to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance. Language that would have prohibited American big game hunters from importing Canadian polar bear trophies was excluded from the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which passed December 19. The anti-hunting language had been included in the Senate version of the bill, but sportsmen’s grassroots action in June kept it out of the House adaptation.

USSA worked with the National Rifle Association to convince lawmakers to omit the anti-hunting language from the omnibus bill. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-CO; Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA; and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK played vital roles in protecting the hunt. The USSA also credits Rep. Ron Kind, D-WI; Rep. Don Young, R-AK; Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-KS; and Rep. Dan Boren, D-OK for their aid in defeating the anti-hunting amendment that appeared in the House version of the bill this summer.

“Congressional leadership got the message that polar bear conservation will collapse if baseless hunting bans are established,” said Rick Story, USSA senior vice president. “Now we must hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service is on the same page and does not hogtie polar bear conservation by listing the animals as threatened.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will make a final determination in January 2008 whether to list the polar bear as a federally-threatened species. The proposal to list the animals is a political gesture that was put forth after environmental groups threatened to sue the government.

Science shows that polar bear populations are at historic highs and that there are no imminent threats to the healthy, huntable populations. The listing will put effective polar bear conservation in jeopardy, but the loss of Arctic sea ice, which the service identifies as the formidable threat to the bear populations, will not be addressed.

American sportsmen comprise approximately 90 percent of the foreign hunting clientele in Canada, annually pouring millions of dollars into polar bear conservation and management, not to mention the financial benefits to the local communities. American hunters are the primary source of essential funding for conservation and research that allows for continued success of the populations.

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