Washington, D.C. – Alaskan Congressman Don Young took to the House floor yesterday in support of his polar bear provision within H.R. 3590, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which allows for the importation of specific polar bear trophies taken during sports hunts in Canada prior to May 15, 2008, the date the polar bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act. The SHARE Act, a bipartisan package of eight bills, focuses on addressing a number of limitations and restrictions to fishing and hunting on public lands across the nation, in addition to the protecting the ability to use traditional fishing tackle and ammunition. A full outline of the bill, which passed the House today by a vote of 268 to 154, can be found here.
Congressman Young’s provision, the Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act, represents a limited fix affecting roughly 41 American hunters, including two Alaskans, who are currently prohibited from importing their legally taken polar bear trophies into the United States.
Congressman Young speaking on behalf of the Polar Bear Conservation and Fairness Act prior to House passage. Click Here to view the video.
“Today is about advancing a common sense fix that does right by our hunters,” said Congressman Don Young. “The fact is, these polar bears were legally hunted and harvested under all U.S. and Canadian laws in place at the time of their hunt, and now these hunters have been prohibited from bringing back their trophies due to misguided restrictions and a healthy serving of Washington politics. Let’s be clear, a dead bear in a Canadian cold storage locker has absolutely no conservation value to anybody.”
In 1994, Congress amended the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to allow for the import of Canadian polar bear trophies by U.S. hunters. Only trophies taken from approved population areas would be allowed to enter the country. In most instances, hunters spent years planning and setting-aside savings to book the “once in a lifetime experience” of hunting and returning to the U.S. with a prized trophy. This distinction was reversed in 2008 with the listing of the polar bear to the Endangered Species Act, which stopped all imports on polar bears trophies as outlined by the MMPA.
“This is not a discussion on the merits of listing the polar bear to the Endangered Species Act, which I believe is wrong, but a discussion about holding roughly 41 legally taken trophies hostage for political gain,” Congressman Young said. “These trophies were taken in areas with healthy and well-managed polar bear populations, to the benefit of many conservation programs and remote Native villages in Canada. Preventing these law-abiding hunters from importing their trophies does absolutely nothing for polar bear conservation; in fact I believe it causes more harm.”
If imported, roughly $41,000 would be available for the United States - Russia Polar Bear Conservation Fund to support conservation activities for the shared polar bear population.
Congressman Young has worked to resolve this issue since 2009 through the introduction of two separate pieces of legislation. Among support for the provision, is a bipartisan group of sportsmen across the country. Yesterday, the White House released their support for Congressman Young’s polar bear trophy provision. The bill is supported by a bipartisan group of 36 sportsmen organizations including Ducks Unlimited, the National Rifle Association, United States Sportsmen’s Association, and Safari Club International.
In addition to Congressman Young’s provision, measures of Alaskan interest include:
- Title I, the Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act
This section addresses a number of major concerns related to the use of ammo and fishing tackle as related to the Toxic Substances Control Act. This provision leaves the decisions of ammo and tackle to State Fish and Game Agencies and the Fish and Wildlife Services. This assures the Environmental Protection Agency has no role in the ability to regulate tackle or ammo.
- Title V, Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act
This measure grants the Secretary of the Interior authority to authorize state issued electronic duck stamps. In addition, it details electronic duck stamp application requirements and does not increase the current price of federal duck stamp.
- Title VIII, Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act
This provision works to keep public lands open to hunting, recreational fishing, and shooting in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.