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boone and crockett club position statement

Polar Bear ESA Listing - H.R. 991 and 990

Updated September 27, 2011

 

Situational Overview

Serious problems have emerged in the wake of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decision to list polar bears as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Prior to the listing, U.S. hunters could import legally harvested polar bears from six approved bear populations, which supported conservation of the polar bear in a number of ways. ESA listing automatically makes the polar bear a depleted species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which bans all importation of polar bears into the United States. Two bills before the House bills would amend the MMPA to specifically authorize importation of legally taken polar bears from Canada.

Position

The Boone and Crockett Club supports the adoption of H.R. 991, which will amend the MMPA to authorize the Secretary to issue import permits to hunters that had legally taken trophies before the polar bear was listed as “threatened.”  Even with the listing decision made on May 15, 2008, the USFWS would normally have allowed them to be imported but a Court decision forced the FWS to make the polar bear listing rule effective immediately (as opposed to the normal 30-90 day notice period). The bear trophies at issue provide no conservation value sitting in cold-storage warehouses in Canada. In contrast, by allowing these previously harvested bears into the U.S., up to $41,000 would be raised (under MMPA Section 104(c)(5)(B)) to support conservation and research activities for the U.S.-Russia polar bear population. U.S. hunters taking polar bears in the future would not be able to rely on this provision for import authority.

The Club also supports the passage of H.R. 990, known as the Restoration of the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Conservation Fund Act of 2011. This Act would amend the MMPA to allow for the continued importation of legally taken polar bear trophies under section 104(c)(5). This bill would not change the requirement that only those polar bear trophies taken from approved populations (e.g., from “sport hunting program[s] based on scientifically sound quotas…”) could be imported into the U.S. The importation of legally taken trophies under this bill would continue the funding source for the U.S-Russia Polar Bear Conservation Fund, which supports conservation efforts for the shared U.S.-Russia polar bear population. Continued imports would also support conservation and management efforts in Canada by bringing much needed revenue to the remote native communities and encouraging sustainable use by the local communities and the provincial governments. This revenue that limited polar harvests would encourage local communities to value the polar bear even more and would lead to increased polar bear conservation efforts. Finally, reestablishing import authority would not increase polar bear mortality from hunting because “tags” not used by U.S. hunters are used by local natives for subsistence purposes.

Consistent with its position on this issue, the Club has signed on to the American Wildlife Conservation Partners’ letter to U.S. House Representatives Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall II and Ranking Member Doc Hastings in strong support of H.R 991 and 990.

AWCP letter to Doc Hastings and Nick Rahall II dated March 10, 2009.

March 10, 2009
Hon. Nick Rahall II, Chairman
Committee on Natural Resources
U.S. House of Representatives
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. Doc Hastings, Ranking Member
Committee on Natural Resources
U.S. House of Representatives
1329 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Chairman Rahall and Ranking Member Hastings,

The undersigned groups strongly support H.R. 1054 and H.R. 1055, which address a serious problem that emerged in the wake of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decision to list polar bears as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The USFWS has determined that this listing automatically makes the polar bear a depleted species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and that the MMPA bans the import of depleted species. These bills would amend the MMPA to authorize the continued importation of legally taken polar bears from Canada.

As stated, the USFWS has concluded that this ESA listing automatically makes the polar bear a depleted species under the MMPA. Sections 101 and 102 of the MMPA prohibit the importation of a species designated as depleted. The USFWS has determined that this prohibition ends the authorization under section 104(c)(5) to import polar bear trophies from six approved populations in Canada. However, between 38 and 41 hunters legally hunted a polar bear before the listing of the polar bear on May 15, 2008 and now cannot import their trophy due to the ESA listing. H.R. 1054 will amend the MMPA to authorize the Secretary to issue import permits to these hunters for their legally taken polar bear trophies. These already harvested bears provide no conservation value sitting in cold-storage warehouses in Canada. By allowing these bears into the U.S., up to $41,000 would be raised (under MMPA Section 104(c)(5)(B)) to support conservation and research activities for the U.S.-Russia polar bear population.

H.R. 1055, the Restoration of the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Conservation Fund Act of 2009, would amend the MMPA to allow for the continued importation of legally taken polar bear trophies under section 104(c)(5). This bill would not change the requirement that only those polar bear trophies taken from approved populations (e.g., from “sport hunting program[s] based on scientifically sound quotas…”) could be imported into the U.S. The importation of legally taken trophies under this bill would continue the funding source for the U.S-Russia Polar Bear Conservation Fund, which supports conservation efforts for the shared U.S.-Russia polar bear population. Continued imports would also support conservation and management efforts in Canada by bringing much needed revenue to the remote native communities and encouraging sustainable use by the local communities and the provincial governments. Finally, reestablishing import authority would not increase polar bear mortality from hunting because “tags” not used by U.S. hunters will be used by local natives for subsistence purposes.
We thank you for taking the time to understand our concerns and invite you to contact Gary Kania at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (garyk@sportsmenslink.org/ 202-543-6850 x16) for any additional information or assistance in moving H.R 1054 and H.R. 1055 forward.

Sincerely,

Archery Trade Association
Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
Boone and Crockett Club
Bowhunting Preservation Alliance
Campfire Club of America
Catch-A-Dream Foundation
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Conservation Force
Dallas Safari Club
Houston Safari Club
National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses
National Rifle Association
National Shooting Sports Foundation
National Trappers Association
National Wild Turkey Federation
North American Bear Foundation
Pope & Young Club
Quality Deer Management Association
Ruffed Grouse Society
Safari Club International
Shikar Safari Club International
Texas Wildlife Association
United States Sportsmen’s Alliance
Wild Sheep Foundation
Wildlife Management Institute

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