[Congressional Record Volume 160, Number 25 (Tuesday, February 11, 2014)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E191-E192]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                               speech of

                          HON. GARY C. PETERS

                              of michigan

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, February 5, 2014

       The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of 
     the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 3590) to 
     protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, 
     fishing, and shooting, and for other purposes:

  Mr. PETERS of Michigan. Mr. Chair, I rise today in strong opposition 
to H.R. 3590, the SHARE Act of 2013. This bill contains a harmful 
provision that chips away at the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the 
Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) by retroactively allowing the 
import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies as Title IV of the bill. I 
submitted an amendment to the bill which would have struck Title IV, 
however the Rules Committee denied the members of this body an 
opportunity to vote on this issue. I am disappointed this legislation 
was not brought to the floor under an open rule which would have 
allowed consideration of my amendment so members could debate this 
precedent-setting provision.
   Polar bears are protected from sport hunting in the United States, 
including the polar bear population in Alaska. In 2008 the Bush 
Administration listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the 
Endangered Species Act and the 1972 MMPA protects polar bears and other 
marine mammals. To allow American hunters to kill them for trophies in 
other countries is irresponsible and inconsistent with the bipartisan 
commitment to conserving the polar bear population.
   According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature 
(IUCN), the polar bear is a ``vulnerable'' species based on a projected 
population reduction of more than 30 percent within three generations 
(45 years) due to a decrease in distribution and habitat quality. It is 
estimated there are fewer than 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears remaining 
in the wild.

[[Page E192]]

   Title IV of this bill exempts 41 trophy hunters who had proper 
notice of the impending prohibition on import of polar bear trophies. 
These 41 individuals hunted these bears after the Bush Administration 
proposed the species for listing as threatened under ESA, and all but 
one continued to hunt polar bears more than a year after the listing 
was proposed. Despite repeated warnings from hunting organizations and 
government agencies that they were hunting at their own risk because 
trophy imports were unlikely to be allowed as of the listing date, 
these individuals sport hunted polar bears anyway.
   An example of warnings regarding the prospects of importing polar 
bear trophies comes from hunting rights organization Conservation 
Force. The group wrote to hunters in December 2007: ``American hunters 
are asking us whether they should even look at polar bear hunts in 
light of the current effort by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list 
this species as threatened . . . The bottom line is, no American hunter 
should be putting hard, non-returnable money down on a polar bear hunt 
at this point.'' The group also noted in January 2008: ``We feel 
compelled to tell you that American trophy hunters are likely to be 
barred from importing bears they take this season. Moreover, there is a 
chance that bears taken previous to this season may be barred as well. 
American clients with polar bear trophies still in Canada or Nunavut 
need to get those bears home.''
   Conservation Force again reminded hunters that the ESA listing 
``will stop all imports . . . immediately'' in April 2008. Later that 
same month, Safari Club International informed hunters: ``If some or 
all of the polar bear populations are listed, the FWS has indicated 
that imports of trophies from any listed populations would be barred as 
of that date, regardless of where in the process the application is.''
   Congress should not change a law just because a few people did not 
heed clear and ample warnings. It is an affront to the millions of 
hunters and sportsmen who followed the law and observed the warning of 
government agencies and hunting organizations. The hunters that chose 
to travel to the Arctic to sport hunt polar bears should not receive 
special treatment. Doing so creates a moral hazard and establishes a 
dangerous precedent that could encourage rushes to sport hunt imperiled 
species prior to their formal listing as an endangered species. Those 
who wish to sport hunt imperiled species should understand they do so 
at their own risk and cannot rely on allies in Congress to bail them 
out with a retroactive waiver of critical conservation law.
   Congress first carved out a loophole in the MMPA and allowed for 
more than 900 sport-hunted polar bear trophies to be imported into the 
United States from Canada in 1994. In 1997, Congress amended the MMPA 
to allow imports of polar bear trophies taken in sport hunts in Canada 
before April 1994, regardless of what population the bear was taken 
from, and despite the strict prohibition on trophy imports in place 
prior to 1994. In 2003, Congress amended the MMPA to allow imports of 
polar bear trophies taken in sport hunts in Canada before February 
1997. This allowed imports regardless of what population the bear is 
taken from, and as long as the hunter proves that the bear is ``legally 
harvested in Canada.''
   Today with H.R. 3590, we have yet another effort to allow polar bear 
imports. This time we are asked to approve an additional 41 trophies on 
top of the more than 1,000 already Congress previously sanctioned for 
import. How many times are we going to provide these ``one-time'' 
import allowances? Doing this repeatedly undermines the restrictions on 
killing rare species.
   At a time when Congress should be working in a bipartisan basis to 
address many of the critical issues facing American families, more 
special treatment for wealthy sport hunters should not be a priority. I 
am disappointed that my amendment to strike Title IV was not made in 
order and that the House did not have an opportunity to further debate 
this matter.