Congressional effort to allow killing hibernating bears and wolf pups in their dens moves to U.S. Senate

February 22, 2017

Last week’s vote on H.J. Res. 69 was one of the most disturbing actions by Congress I’ve witnessed during more than a quarter century of political advocacy for animals. By a 225 to 195 vote, a narrow majority of the U.S. House voted to rescind a rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to forbid the worst wildlife management practices introduced to the field in the last century – shooting hibernating bears with their cubs and denning of wolves and their pups; using airplanes to scout, land, and shoot grizzly bears; and baiting and trapping black and grizzly bears with steel-jawed leghold traps and neck wire snares.

Both obedience to and fear of the NRA and Safari Club International, along with an interest in securing campaign donations from those groups and their supporters, drove more than 200 lawmakers to vote against good sense and common decency.

Rep. Don Young of Alaska, a former board member of the NRA and a licensed trapper – who conceded on the floor that he used to kill wolf pups in their dens for a bounty paid by the federal government — initiated this action and led the charge for his terrible resolution. An identical resolution, introduced by Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska as S.J. Res. 18, may be taken up in the Senate next week or soon thereafter.

Let’s take a look at several of Young’s arguments brandished in the run-up to this vote.

Young and other proponents simultaneously argued that the federal rule would restrict hunting and even fishing rights, yet they also said that the practices forbidden under the rule don’t occur.

It’s almost a logical impossibility to severely restrict hunting and fishing rights for practices that aren’t occurring. So what’s really at work here, and where do the truth and these politicians lie? The state of Alaska, especially since the enactment of the Intensive Management Act, has been on a crusade to use well-heeled trophy hunters and state agents to drive down the numbers of grizzly bears, black bears, and wolves, in order to create more moose and caribou for hunters to shoot. In pursuit of this goal, it’s authorized all manner of appalling practices, including hunting and killing methods forbidden by the FWS rule on their lands. In short, if these methods weren’t legal and used, then the state, the Safari Club, and the NRA wouldn’t be clamoring for a rescinding of the measure.

Young and his allies invoked the 10th Amendment and called the battle a states’ rights issue, saying the federal government has no business managing wildlife on federal lands.

This is their most dangerous argument, since this is an attempt to supplant wildlife management by the National Park Service (NPS) and the FWS on over 170 million acres of land throughout the United States – from the refuges and national parks and preserves in Alaska to Yellowstone and Acadia and Everglades in the rest of the United States. While the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have traditionally deferred to the states on wildlife management, the FWS and the NPS have for decades directly controlled the management of wildlife on land dedicated to species preservation. That power is derived from the Constitution and Congress, and the federal courts have repeatedly upheld that right. The FWS rule is aligned with the Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act (which Young opposed in 1980) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, along with the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The sweeping application of Congressman Young’s invocation of the 10th Amendment would upend management practices at hundreds of parks, preserves, seashores, battlefields, refuges, and other designated land holdings. This has been a long-held aspiration of the NRA and Safari Club, and lawmakers aligned with them took the ball and ran with it. If this principle had merit, then it would just be a matter of time for the state of Wyoming to open hunting seasons on grizzly bears and wolves within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, if state managers chose that strategy.

Young said that everybody in Alaska is in favor of his effort to repeal the federal rule.

Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia argued against H.J. Res. 69 and read excerpts from a series of letters from Alaskans opposing the rule. On top of that, there were letters from more than a dozen wildlife biologists from Alaska saying that the FWS rule is the right policy, and that the rule itself was crafted by FWS biologists who work and live in Alaska and felt duty-bound to proscribe activities at odds with the purposes of the refuges. None of these people are cranks, and it turns out, they are not in the minority. statewide pollconducted in February 2016 showed Alaskans oppose denning of wolves by more than a 2-to-1 margin. At a series of public meetings on the FWS proposed rule, many Alaskans turned out to publicly support the rulemaking actions because they want these inhumane, unsustainable, and unsporting practices to end. At the Fairbanks meeting, a clear majority supported the proposed rule. Alaskan voters have put the issue of aerial gunning of wolves on the ballot three times, and passed two of the measures (still lawmakers, violating the wishes of their own constituents, overturned those laws).

The FWS rule, years in the works, was hardly an example of the federal government running roughshod over the state. The opposite is far closer to the truth, with the state trying to bully its way into our national wildlife refuges and national preserves, authorized by Congress. Congress provided the FWS with a statutory mandate requiring the agency to conserve wildlife species, and prohibiting the denning of wolf pups and land-and-scout hunting of grizzly bears falls in line with that mandate. Yet, consistent with its policy, the FWS appealed to the Alaska Board of Game dozens of times to amend its rules to exempt National Wildlife Refuges. The Board of Game refused.

The House outcome is intolerable, and now the debate moves to the U.S. Senate. Only determined action by citizens can stop the Senate from replicating the House action. Call your U.S. Senators and urge them to oppose S.J. Res. 18, by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. It’s not just the lives of the wolves and bears at stake, it’s nothing less than the principle of federal control of our parks and refuges throughout the United States.
Last week’s vote on H.J. Res. 69 was one of the most disturbing actions by Congress I’ve witnessed during more than a quarter century of political advocacy for animals. By a 225 to 195 vote, a narrow majority of the U.S. House voted to rescind a rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) . . .

13 thoughts on “Congressional effort to allow killing hibernating bears and wolf pups in their dens moves to U.S. Senate

  1. ..
    I’m (temporarily) out of tears..
    and anger for the
    humans ☻

    karma has no “menu”..
    you will get what you deserve ☻

  2. Killing sleeping bears and baby wolves!? We need a big asteroid, and we need it now! We are the vicious and degenerate byproducts of an evolution gone badly wrong.

  3. But have no fear, more people are supporting legalizing marijuana than care about this kind of important issue. Colorado, of all things, ought to be supporting the comeback of wolves to what once was their great Western state, instead of giving new meaning to the Mile High State. Greed and the pursuit of selfish pleasures always win out! Of all the issues to come together on state’s rights about! I don’t think citizens walking around in a state of impairment is going to be good for the country, and nobody is going to want to pay taxes on it, it will still be an underground business. But maybe pass it around freely to Don Young and his cohorts, in the hopes of keeping him incapacitated.

  4. This shameful travesty and another event on the other side of the world caught my attention. A rhino orphanage in South Africa was invaded last week by poachers who, while holding the staff at gun point, killed two young rhinos housed there for their budding horns. These two immature, hand-reared rhinos had themselves been previously orphaned by poachers who had killed their mothers. At long last, is there really no limit to the parasitical degeneracy of the human race? You know you have hit rock bottom when even defenseless baby animals are being targeted for wanton destruction. And why, if there is a God or any righteous person left on the planet, is Don Young still walking around breathing air? This creature is and has been for over a half-century a one-man environmental disaster.. At some point ethically-motivated people have got to stop just getting “sad” and start getting mad. Real mad. Rough justice is better than no justice whether it is meted out on the plains of Africa or on the Washington Mall.

    • Absolutely. The poaching incidents you mentioned makes me think of Dian Fossey, whom I regard as a hero. When Fossey was in Rwanda studying the mountain gorillas, she was appalled at the kind of animal abuse and killing she was seeing. Poachers were setting snares to catch everyone from small antelopes to the gorillas. Some of the gorillas managed to get out of the snares, but the wires remained digging into them until they caused infection, gangrene, and often death. Fossey describes one buffalo who was trying evade hunters and got caught between two trees. The hunters cut all the flesh from his hindquarters and left the buffalo there still alive and suffering.

      Fossey fought the poachers with every method possible. After she was murdered, an American professor, Nina Stoyan, said in essence that Fossey had it coming because she put the gorillas ahead of humans (which is one of the reasons I find Fossey admirable). She was buried at Karisoke with some of the gorillas who were killed (including her favorite, Digit, who was speared to death by poachers). Her gravestone reads “No one loved gorillas more.” All blessings to her and her beloved animals.

    • How awful. 😦 On one of the wolf-hating and ‘anything goes in the pursuit of my own personal happiness’ websites, they were appalled that on a wildlife refuge in India, the rangers shoot to kill trespassers.

      • I’m sure they are appalled. Good! I believe they are doing that in one part of Africa too. Nothing else will help. But it’s almost comical to see the hysterical response of especially the Religious Right when it comes to animals. They need to keep that gulf between US and them wide as possible. I was criticized for referring to Harambe as “he” instead of “it” in one comments section. I got an even worse response when I said if I had been manager of the zoo I would have tried everything possible, but there would have been no gun shots.

  5. I agree with Geoff. I have often wondered why a super radical environmental movement has not been started that takes bastards like Don Young (and there are so many others) OUT completely.
    Let them live in fear and terror for their pathetic lives. They would never know when and where the hit would take place. And the poachers…..don’t get me started on what they deserve; it would not be a quick clean kill.

    • I hope little Fiona keeps doing well. She is a positive overdose of cute! My sister and I were watching a show from Africa about a baby rhino that was being cared for by a couple that also had a little goat. The rhino and the goat were trying to play, with the rhino chasing the goat. But the goat was nimble and fast and the rhino was like a little tank. By the time he could turn around the goat was long gone. Really funny.

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