The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the misnamed “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act,” S. 1514, which strips wolves of their federal protections in three states under the Endangered Species Act, subverting the judicial process and all but guaranteeing that hundreds of wolves are subjected to baiting, hound hunting, and cruel trapping practices. The bill contains other harmful provisions for wildlife, such as preventing limits on toxic lead in aquatic environments, and allowing 41 wealthy trophy hunters to import sport-hunted trophies of polar bears shot in the Arctic even though polar bears are a threatened species.
In response to the EPW vote, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States said:
“This bill contains numerous provisions that will cause immense suffering to wild animals, and those elements should not be enacted into law. Congress should not cherry-pick wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species. Congress shouldn’t come to the aid of trophy hunters who shot rare polar bears in Canada and couldn’t otherwise legally import them into the U.S. And Congress shouldn’t put bald eagles and other migratory birds at risk by weakening anti-baiting rules or barring federal agencies from regulating lead in fishing tackle, especially when alternatives exist.”
A few of the harmful provisions included in S. 1514
S. 1514 removes Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in three Great Lakes states (and also Wyoming, even though Wyoming already has management authority over wolves). This proposal would both subvert judicial processes and undermine the ESA, one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws. Removing federal protections and turning wolf management over to the states has led to politically-motivated, fear-based killing programs on wolves. In a three year period, trophy hunters and trappers killed more than 1,500 wolves in the Great Lakes states alone, and that killing spree stopped because of a successful legal action led by The HSUS. States have authorized the use of strangling cable neck snares; cruel steel-jawed, leg-hold traps; and hounding with packs of radio-collared trailing hounds. It is clear that federal oversight is necessary to provide adequate protections for gray wolves as required by the ESA. The committee narrowly rejected an amendment by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., to remove this anti-wolf provision by a party-line vote of 11 to 10.
S. 1514 also prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting toxic chemicals, such as lead in fishing equipment. Millions of pounds of lead fishing tackle are lost in aquatic environments each year, putting water and wading birds such as loons, whooping cranes, gulls, swans, geese, egrets, and herons, at risk of lead poisoning. There are alternative metals that can be used in hunting and fishing, and no need to cause the poisoning of millions of animals as a collateral effect of these recreational practices.
An amendment to the bill, offered by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, 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.
S. 1514 amends the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by sweepingly excluding vast areas of land from the definition of “baited area.” If an area is not a “baited area,” then the prohibition against killing migratory birds does not apply. Already, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits to agricultural interests on a regular basis to kill birds to reduce crop damage which makes this provision unnecessary.
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