Polar bear bill takes step forward

getimageForty-one hunters who took polar bears in Canada four years ago but have been unable to bring the bears back into the U.S. got one step closer to recovering their trophies yesterday.

House Republicans and several Democrats voted 262-151 in favor of letting the hides back into the U.S. The bill still must pass the Senate.

Dallas Safari Club applauded the passage of the bill.

“For Dallas Safari Club, which has been working with Congress for three years to allow importation of legally hunted polar bears, yesterday’s passage of H.R. 4089 in the House of Representatives is especially gratifying,” according to a press release. “DSC has been most intensively involved in the polar bear issue. Since 2009, the club has provided Congressional committees with witnesses, information and support for legislation to allow importation of polar bear trophies taken in Canada prior to the species being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.”

Alaska Rep. Don Young cited the Second Amendment and the fact that two of the hunters were wounded American troops.

They were in Iraq, in that heated area. The one dream they had when they got back was to be able to go and hunt a polar bear. And I can understand that,” Young said. 

The Alaska Republican said he is probably the only member of the House who has ever actually hunted polar bears and who angrily denounced those who tried to block importation of the bears.

“They’re anti-gun and anti-hunting. Yes, step up to the plate — that’s what you are. I know that,” he said. “But to take that right away from an American citizen, especially a wounded veteran, two of them — to take that right away from them is wrong.”

The U.S. listed polar bears as an endangered species in 2008, and that means their remains cannot be imported into the country.

H.R. 4089, which now moves to the Senate, includes language that:

• Amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow hunters who legally harvested polar bears in Canada prior to its listing under the Endangered Species Act to purchase permits in order to transport their trophies into the U.S.

 • Requires hunting and recreational shooting and fishing to be recognized activities on all Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

 • Protects recreational shooting on National Monuments under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management.

 • Clarifies that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the jurisdiction to regulate lead components found in either traditional ammunition or fishing tackle.

Some Democrats said that the 41 hunters in question rushed to Canada to hunt bears in the months before they were designated endangered, and that they were warned by federal agencies at the time that they might not be able to bring them back, according to The Washington Times.

“The hunters who chose to kill these polar bears knew they were taking a risk,” said Rep. Howard L. Berman, a California Democrat.