Tuesday, March 06, 2007

USSA Testifies Against Proposal to Expand Reach of ESA to Ban Hunting

The following alert just came in today.

FWS Comments Raise More Questions about Intent of Proposed Action

(Columbus) – The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance blasted a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to list polar bears as federally threatened and curtail hunting for them. After sportsmen’s concerns were expressed during last night’s public hearing, wildlife officials made remarks that gave even more reason to call the listing into question.

At a March 5 public hearing at the Department of the Interior, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance representative David Lampp testified against a proposal to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Listing the polar bears is a political gesture not a conservation measure. It will impede polar bear conservation and will do nothing to address environmental factors that are claimed to pose long-term threats to the bear populations.

“There are healthy, well-managed polar bear populations in Canada that provide excellent hunting opportunities for American sportsmen,” said USSA representative David Lampp. “Their success is due in large part to hunting, which provides funding for research and conservation. The unwarranted, blanket listing sought by the service will bring an immediate end to conservation revenue from U.S. hunters, who account for approximately 90 percent of the foreign clientele for polar bear hunting in Canada.”

The listing not only puts the polar bear populations in jeopardy, it also fails to address the problem that the Fish and Wildlife Service identifies as the formidable threat to the species.

“The service names the loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change - not hunting - as the threat to polar bears,” said Lampp. “Listing the polar bear as threatened will not stop climate change, thus the listing will not address the perceived threat.”

Wildlife officials admitted at the hearing, according to Lampp, that the science behind their decision to try to list the bears is based on vague estimates and assumptions. Further, the agency has not determined whether or how the listing will allow them to address climate change.

“Fish and Wildlife Service representatives admitted that they have little certainty in their polar bear population estimates,” said Lampp. “Their projections about Arctic sea ice and climate change are precarious, and the conclusions about the effects of possible sea ice reduction on polar bears were based largely on assumptions and anecdotal evidence.”

The successful Canadian management programs demonstrate that hunting can be beneficial to polar bear populations. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, through its International Hunters’ Rights Campaign, will continue to fight the federal government’s efforts to use the ESA to ban the hunting of polar bears and import of polar bear trophies.

The USSA is preparing written comments to submit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opposing the proposal. A final decision on the listing will be made in January 2008, after a 12-month public comment period and scientific review.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organizations that protects and advances America’s heritage of hunting, fishing and trapping. It does so in the courts, state legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website, www.ussportsmen.org.

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