Senate Committee Approves Crucial Polar Bear Provision

Polar bear

There has been an addition of language to S. 1514 that will allow the importation of certain sport-hunted polar bears from Canada. The polar bear provision has become part of a sportsmen’s legislative package introduced in late June by Senator John Barrasso.

S. 1514 is the Hunting Heritage & Environmental Legacy Preservation Act or “HELP for Wildlife Act.

Yesterday, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee approved the measure on a 14-7 vote. As SCI previously reported, the HELP for Wildlife Act reauthorizes several important conservation programs, directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming, and facilitates the construction of shooting ranges on Bureau of Land Management & Forest Service lands.

Before final approval yesterday by the committee, Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska moved to add the polar bear provision, which was approved by voice vote. The provision is similar to a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Don Young of Alaska to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to allow importation of polar bear trophies harvested in sport hunts in Canada. Sullivan’s amendment enables the Secretary of the Interior to authorize import permits for polar bears that had been legally harvested from approved populations in Canada before the polar bear was listed as threatened in 2008.

The polar bear today, as it did in 2008, enjoys high population numbers across its entire range.

Canada’s polar bear management program is top notch and is one the most scrutinized conservation programs in the world. The 41 polar bears taken by U.S. hunters in 2008 were all harvested under sustainable quotas in accordance with sound conservation practices. Before the listing, U.S. hunters who imported their polar bears into the U.S., each paid $1,000 to a fund used exclusively for polar bear research and conservation. Over the three decades that the program was in place, U.S. hunters contributed almost $1 million dollars to benefit the polar bear. Enactment of Senator Sullivan’s amendment would generate an additional over $40,000 for polar bear research and conservation, coming from U.S. importation fees.

Earlier this week SCI sent out an Action Alert asking SCI members to encourage their U.S. Senators to support S. 1514. Yesterday’s addition of Senator Sullivan’s polar bear amendment provides further reason to keep those calls and messages of encouragement going.

SCI applauds Senator Sullivan for including this important amendment and thanks all of the legislators who introduced, sponsored and supported this legislation.

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