Today, The HSUS launched a television advertising campaign to expose a hard-to-stomach and hard-to-comprehend effort in Congress to overturn a federal ban on the most inhumane and unsporting practices seen in the recent history of American wildlife management. This gambit involves the sanctioning, among other deplorable practices, of private citizens going into dens and killing hibernating bears and shooting wolf puppies at point-blank range.
Since January, Republican leaders have been pursuing an anti-regulatory agenda, saying that federal regulations are burdening business and a correction is warranted. But repealing this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule, developed by professional wildlife managers to stop despicable practices, won’t save one job and won’t bring one dime into Alaska. H. J. Res. 69 is a cruel, mean-spirited, and duplicitous legislative maneuver, and masking it as a pro-hunting measure or a regulatory reform effort is a joke.
Rep. Don Young – Alaska’s sole Congressman, formerly a licensed trapper — is seeking to unwind a carefully crafted decision by experts working on the ground and managing our national wildlife refuges in Alaska. His resolution, enabled under the Congressional Review Act, would not only allow killing of bears and wolves in and around their dens, but it would allow trophy hunters to use aircraft to scout and chase grizzly bears and then land and shoot them. It would also allow the use of giant leghold traps and snares to kill grizzly bears and black bears.
These are all outlier practices in American wildlife management, and it’s jarring to think they were ever permitted on national wildlife refuges – the one category of federal lands set aside principally for wildlife. Only Maine allows bear trapping, and no other states allow the use of aircraft to chase down grizzly bears. Only Idaho allows shooting wolves around their dens.
Yet, as I mentioned, the peddlers of this effort in Congress are trying to cast this measure as “pro-sportsmen.” That’s like a chicken farmer defending cockfighting by saying it’s part of American agriculture. These are extreme practices, beyond the pale of decency, and no true sportsmen would ever defend or participate in this conduct.
Our HSUS television commercial explains what’s at stake with this vote, but doesn’t show the actual cruelty that bears and wolves endure. If we did show a hunter shooting a wolf puppy at point-blank range, or a grizzly bear thrashing to escape a steel-jawed trap, viewers would recoil and the networks would pull the ads off the air. And that’s part of my argument: if you cannot watch it or broadcast it, it certainly shouldn’t be allowed on lands labeled as national wildlife refuges.
Killing hibernating bears, shooting wolf pups in their dens, and chasing down grizzlies by aircraft and then shooting them on the ground is not the stuff of some depraved video game. It is real, and the policy forbidding or green-lighting these activities is scheduled to come up for debate and a vote tomorrow on the House floor. The National Rifle Association and Safari Club International are pushing for the green-lighting of these practices, to their great dishonor.
The purveyors of this misguided resolution are engaged in all sorts of other phony arguments, including the claim that only the state of Alaska can decide these issues. But they conveniently fail to mention that these are national wildlife refuges, and there are multiple court cases that establish that the federal government is the final decider on wildlife management decisions for federal lands.
When the wildlife protection rule was made final in August, USFWS director Dan Ashe, himself a hunter, said it best: “Over the past several years, the Alaska Board of Game has unleashed a withering attack on bears and wolves that is wholly at odds with America’s long tradition of ethical, sportsmanlike, fair-chase hunting, in something they call ‘intensive predator management’.”
H. J. Res. 69 would also block the administration from ever issuing a similar rule, leaving the power to prohibit these outrageous hunting methods solely in the hands of Congress.
Congressman Young, who’s been in office for nearly a half century, is badly out of touch with the mood in his state. Most Alaskans favor the rule and object to these barbaric practices. A 2016 poll conducted by Remington Research Group showed that Alaska voters strongly support eliminating these cruel and unsporting practices used to kill bears and wolves on national wildlife refuges in their state. Driving down grizzly bear and wolf numbers on refuges is a prescription for tamping down tourism and hurting gateway communities to national wildlife refuges that benefit immensely from visits from people throughout the world who hope to catch a glimpse of a wolf family or a mama bear with her cubs. Wildlife watchers contribute over $2 billion to Alaska’s economy.
Contact your U.S. Representative today and urge him or her to oppose H. J. Res. 69. The Young resolution is indecent in the extreme, and we must raise our voices against this policy change in the loudest way we know.
This article first appeared on Wayne Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation.