September 24, 2009 "In The Crosshairs"

In The Crosshairs Newsletter

September 24, 2009

SCI Lion
SCI Testifies At Congressional Hearing Regarding The Import Of Already Harvested Polar Bears

Washington, D.C. – On September 22nd, Dr. William Moritz from Safari Club International (SCI) testified in support of polar bear conservation and research before the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife. 

At issue is H.R. 1054, Congressman Don Young’s (R-AK) legislation to allow the importation of approximately 42 polar bears that already have been legally hunted in Canada. Before the May 15, 2008 listing of the polar bear as threatened, U.S. citizens could obtain import permits for polar bears hunted from six approved populations -- those which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found to have a sound and sustainable harvest program. Relying on both science and sound wildlife management principles, SCI explained that allowing these imports would not affect the polar bear populations, but would generate over $40,000 for polar bear research.

Congressman Young’s bill would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act to specifically allow the import of polar bears that had been hunted from approved populations prior to the listing of the species under the Endangered Species Act. The decision by the FWS banning imports deprived numerous individuals of the full value of their rightful property.  The bears currently sit in cold storage in Canada.  H.R. 1054 would help rectify this unfortunate situation for the 40-plus hunters affected by the import ban.  MORE…

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District Court Returns Yellowstone Grizzlies To Threatened Species List

The grizzly bears of the Yellowstone area are once again back on the threatened species list, despite exceeding recovery goals for numerous years and strong state and federal management.  On September 21, Judge Molloy, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, set aside the 2007 delisting of the grizzly bear.  The return to threatened status means that the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are again divested of management over this species.  As part of the delisting, all three states committed to comprehensive plans to ensure that the grizzly bear would not fall below recovery goals.  The return to threatened status also means that the states cannot consider holding sustainable grizzly bear hunts any time in the near future.  During both the administrative decision-making process and this litigation, SCI and SCIF supported the delisting.

In the Court's view, there were two problems with the delisting: (1) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to ensure that existing regulatory mechanisms would ensure that the bear would not need to return to the list in the future and (2) that the FWS did not adequately account for projected declines in whitebark pine seeds, an important grizzly food source.  The Court upheld the FWS's determination that it could address any concerns with genetic diversity in the future and that the FWS properly considered what constituted a significant portion of the grizzlies' range in the Yellowstone area.

The parties in the case - the federal government, the state intervenors, and other intervenors like SCI and SCIF - have 60 days from September 21 to decide whether to appeal.  It is not clear what this ruling will mean for the two cases pending in District Court in Idaho challenging the same grizzly bear delisting.