January 20, 2016
Senate Committee Passes Anti-Wildlife Package with Poison Pills, Strips Wolves of Federal Protections
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today added several poison pill provisions to the so-called Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, S. 659, which already threatened the interests of wildlife, conservation and public lands, but now is an even more extreme measure.
Among other harmful provisions, the bill now strips wolves of their federal protections in four states under the Endangered Species Act, subverting the judicial process and subjecting hundreds of wolves to hostile state practices such as baiting, hound hunting, and painful steel-jawed leghold traps. It also blocks federal wildlife officials from making decisions about cruel and inhumane predator control practices on Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.
In response to the EPW vote, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States said: “This was already an awful bill, but now it’s an appalling one -- undermining the federal courts and removing federal protections for endangered wolves, denying proper oversight of toxic lead in the environment, blocking carefully considered rulemaking to protect animals on national wildlife refuges, among other destructive provisions. This bill is a grab bag of miscellaneous items that the trophy hunting lobby cannot secure in free standing bills, and Congress should give it a quick, clean kill shot.”
A few of the harmful provisions included in S. 659 are as follows:
Just last month, Congress rejected a rider to the end-of-year spending bill that would have removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes states and Wyoming. Today, the committee adopted by voice vote an amendment by Senator Barrasso, R-WY, to accomplish the same. This proposal would both subvert judicial processes and undermine the ESA, one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws. When wolves were delisted in 2012, 20 percent of the Wisconsin population was wiped out in three hunting seasons, including 17 entire family units. In a three year period, more than 1,500 wolves were killed in the Great Lakes states alone. It is clear that federal oversight is necessary to provide adequate protections for gray wolves as required by the ESA.
AK Predator Control
An amendment proposed by Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK, and adopted on a straight party-line vote would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from issuing a rule and going through a public process on cruel predator control methods like the trapping and baiting of wolves and bears in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.
The bill contains troubling provisions that relate to the use of lead ammunition, at a time when non-toxic ammunition is available to all hunters, and is less harmful to wild animals, land, and human health. The committee rejected a common sense amendment by Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA, that would have narrowed the exemption for sport fishing equipment from the Toxic Controlled Substances Act to focus on lead content. Senator Boxer’s amendment would have required periodic reports by the Environmental Protection Agency on the health impacts of lead in fishing equipment.
A 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. The animals were not shot for their meat, but just for trophies and bragging rights. It’s 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. The committee today rejected an amendment by Sen. Boxer that offered a sensible middle ground on this issue, and would have allowed the import of 41 questionable polar bear trophies, while making absolutely clear that the one-time carve-out is not intended to set a precedent.
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