Friday, March 09, 2007

USSA Briefs Senators on Hunting and Polar Bear Conservation

(Columbus) - The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance represented the nation’s sportsmen Friday as it addressed U.S. Senators on why listing the polar bear as federally threatened and curtailing Americans’ opportunities to hunt the animal will prove detrimental.

On Feb. 23, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance representative David Lampp met with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to explain how a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to list each of the 19 polar bear populations as threatened under the Endangered Species Act will impair wildlife research and conservation efforts. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, the committee’s ranking minority member, had invited the USSA to address the committee.

“Listing the polar bears puts conservation for these animals in jeopardy,” said U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance President Bud Pidgeon. “The listing will do nothing toward addressing the environmental factors claimed to pose a long-term threat to polar bear populations. The proposed listing seems to be more a gesture of political correctness than a true conservation measure.”

“Legally hunted polar bear populations are among the healthiest populations in the world,” said Lampp. “This is due in large part to the funding that hunting provides for research and conservation, and the high economic value placed on the polar bear as a result of hunting programs.”

Lampp pointed out that the proposed listing will put an end to the Canadian hunting program, which has been part a proven polar bear management plan.

Ninety percent of Canada’s polar bear hunting clientele come from the United States. These sportsmen, who hunt the bears and return to the U.S. with their trophies, account for approximately 80 hunts per year, which means more than $2.4 million into local communities, and polar bear research and conservation annually.

American hunters cannot pursue the animals in the United States due to restrictions in the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

“The proposed listing will prohibit the import of all polar bear trophies into the United States,” said Lampp. “This will deal a severe blow to polar bear hunting and research.”

While the listing will put effective polar bear conservation in jeopardy, the problem that the service identifies as the formidable threat to the polar bear population will not be addressed.

“The service names the loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change - not hunting - as the threat to polar bears,” said Lampp. “The Endangered Species Act provides no way for the Interior Secretary to stop climate change, thus the listing will not address the perceived threat.”

On Dec. 27, 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed that the polar bear be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Instead of limiting threatened status to only the distinct population segments that are decreasing, the service recommendation will put all of the bears, including healthy, huntable populations, under the same restrictions.

The USSA is preparing comments to submit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opposing the proposal. A final decision on the listing will be made in Dec. 2007 after a 12-month public comment period and scientific review.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance considers the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to list the polar bear as a federally threatened species, including healthy Canadian populations, as another example of the federal government’s anti-hunting bias.

“The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance formed the International Hunters’ Rights Campaign in 2006 because of our concern that the federal government continues to disregard sportsmen’s interests,” said Pidgeon. “The campaign is also working to prevent the service from slashing tax deductions and imposing burdensome import regulations on international big game hunters as the Fish and Wildlife Service works on regulation reform for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.”

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organizations that protects and advances America’s heritage of hunting, fishing and trapping. It does so in the courts, state legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website,