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Grijalva’s Anti-Hunting Bill Ignores Science, Will Lead to More Human-Grizzly Bear Conflicts

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

The Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act, or H.R. 2532, was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 7th by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)—one of Congress’ most virulent anti-hunters.

The bill will be heard in in the House Committee on Natural Resources: Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife at 2pm tomorrow, Wednesday, May 15th. Interestingly enough, the majority of those sitting on this subcommittee live in states without grizzly bear populations.

H.R. 2532 and Its Implications

If passed and signed into law, H.R. 2532 will mandate the Secretary of Interior, not state wildlife agencies, to issue permits for taking a grizzly bear. The bill essentially bans all grizzly bear hunting in the Lower-48—even for culling purposes. Those exceptions include grizzly bears that belong to threatened or endangered categories under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act, in the state of Alaska, or if a person’s life in under threat by a bear in question. It’ll also establish an unaccountable Grizzly Bear Scientific Committee to oversee six regions “to carry out the expert consultations and scientific studies” under this proposed law.

“Instead of making the country wait on pins and needles, Congress should just go ahead and protect of one of our country’s most beloved species,” Grijalva said on May 7th. “Grizzles are important to this country, and our laws should reflect that. Just because we brought the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction doesn’t mean we suddenly allowed people to start killing them again. Grizzly bears should be afforded the same level of long-term protection.”

Grijalva boasts high marks from anti-hunt groups like the Humane Society, League of Conservation Voters, and Sierra Club. He typically scores a 100% on Humane Society’s legislative scorecard. In 2018, he scored a 95% on the Center for Biological Diversity’s scorecard on Positions on Endangered Species Act. In 2018, he scored a 94% and 96% on League of Conservation Voters’ “National Environmental Scorecard” and “National Environmental Scorecard” Lifetime, respectively. In 2017, he scored a 97% on Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund – Positions scorecard.

Not surprisingly, the bill has support from groups like Sierra Club and Humane Society.

Here’s Humane Society‘s endorsement:

“The grizzly bear’s importance to many Native Americans underscores its iconic status in our country. We applaud Representative Grijalva and his colleagues for introducing the Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act. This bill fights grizzly bears’ decline due to trophy hunting and other factors, helping ensure the species does not go extinct.” – Sara Amundson, President, Humane Society Legislative Fund

…along with Sierra Club‘s seal of approval:

“This legislation rightly recognizes the need for both the preservation of grizzly bears in the wild and the involvement of Tribal Nations in their management. We’re pleased to see action to safeguard the natural and cultural value of these great animals for future generations.” – Kirin Kennedy, Associate Legislative Director for Lands and Wildlife, Sierra Club

Moreover, in H.R. 2532, the only allowed “taking, possession, or transportation” of a grizzly bear would be done for scientific or exhibition purposes (i.e. museum, zoological societies, or scientific study), religious purposes for federally-recognized Indian tribes, or by non-lethal means with respect to agriculture or public safety.

Any bear taken lethally, the bill adds, is strictly forbidden and the “Secretary [of Interior] may not issue a permit…for the taking of a grizzly bear if such taking would cause the total mortality for any population or subpopulation of grizzly bears to exceed the scientifically recommended limit determined by the agency Grizzly Bear Study Team, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, or any relevant subcommittee thereof.”

Unfortunately for Rep. Grijalva and the special interest groups backing his bill, new Interior Secretary David Bernhardt will likely oppose this measure given his agency’s support for delisting recovered species.

H.R. 2532 is an extreme response to efforts by state wildlife agencies seeking a hunting season for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)’s determination that grizzlies in the region have fully recovered—facts Rep. Grijalva and his cohorts have deliberately ignored.

Last September, I wrote here at the website about Judge Dana L. Christensen’s ruling reimposing Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections to this recovered bear population.

In this 48-page document, the U.S. District Court judge accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for being negligent in their decision to delist the GYE grizzly bear and called the subsequent managed hunt where 24 grizzly tags were issued “objectionable.”

“Although this order may have impacts throughout grizzly country and beyond, this case is not about the ethics of hunting and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical or philosophical matter,” U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote. “This court’s review, constrained by the Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress, is limited to answering a yes-or-no question: Did the United States Fish and Wildlife Service exceed its legal authority when it delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear?”

“(T)he service entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem,” Christensen wrote. FWS also “illegally negotiated away its obligation to apply the best available science in order to reach an accommodation with the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

Grijalva’s Bill Ignores Scientific Conclusion that GYE DPS Grizzly Population is Fully Recovered

Much to the chagrin of Grijalva and other anti-hunting Congressional Democrats, grizzly bears in the Great Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) Distinct Population Segment (DPS) have successfully recovered. Delisting doesn’t lead to decimating imperiled or recovered species. In the case of the GYE grizzly, it returns much of management power to state wildlife agencies and other local stakeholders.

On June 22, 2017, USFWS announced its intention to delist the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) after their efforts to recover the population has proven successful. It has rebounded from a population of 136 in 1975 to over 750 in 2017. Moreover, USFWS biologists determined the GYE grizzly bear population currently exceeds the carrying capacity of the region, by occupying well over 22,500 square miles. Had the delisting recommendations not been challenged by this federal judge, incorrect and superfluous ESA protections awarded to the GYE grizzly would be removed and management would return to the states and local tribes where they belong. These two constituencies are better equipped to deal with the threats from an unmanaged grizzly population that, if left unchecked, will result in more human-grizzly conflicts.

This prompted states like Wyoming and Idaho to organize managed grizzly bear hunts in fall 2018, until Judge Christensen put a kibosh on them. In Wyoming, delisting the bear would have permitted limited, carefully monitored culling efforts for the grizzly season—not an all-out war on the species. Had the hunt taken place, only up to 24 bears would have been able to be harvested—which is impossible to do, mind you.

Lawmakers and sportsmen’s groups have voiced their opposition to Grijalva’s bill. Alternatively, they support both the House and Senate versions of the Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2019—which would return management of this population to the states and prevent federal judges ruling against the interests of conservationists, and most importantly, the grizzly bears in question.

“It’s clear that under the Endangered Species Act, grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region are fully recovered, that they should be delisted and management returned to the states,” Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) said. “I have been working on this issue for over 20 years, and we already knew back then that grizzly bears had already fully recovered. Unfortunately, we have seen environmental groups take advantage of the court system in the face of wildlife management experts and the science presented before us. Our legislation would finally right that wrong by once again delisting the bears and stopping further frivolous litigation on this issue.”

“The Grizzly Bear State Management Act stops the abuse of the court system by environmental extremists, safeguards the scientifically proven delisting determination and puts management of the grizzly bear back in the hands of Wyoming,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said. “I’m pleased to reintroduce this bill and continue fighting for the important work done by the state of Wyoming to establish its own effective grizzly bear management plan. The decision by a Federal District Court Judge in Montana to re-list the grizzly ignores science and reinstates one-size fits all federal management. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and with President Trump to fight for Wyoming’s statutory right to manage wildlife.”

In a press release, Safari Club International noted the bill’s deceptive nature in the following manner:

While H.R. 2532 aims to protect grizzlies and allow for more involvement of tribal governments, the bill is an undisguised effort to erode the ability of States to manage wildlife while attacking hunters and dismissing their easily verifiable contributions to grizzly bear recovery.

“Congressman Grijalva’s legislation is a near total ban on the take of a grizzly bear regardless of need. His bill is so full of red tape and hoops to jump through that a state has virtually no hope of eliminating a dangerous bear,” said Bruce Tague, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Sportsmen’s Alliance, in a press release. “Further, HR 2532 ignores the scientific feedback from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies who have concluded that grizzly bear numbers have exceeded their recovery goals in many parts of their range.”

Will HR 2532 Advance? Likely Not — But It Should Still Be Defeated

What’s the likelihood of this passing? Unless hunters, sportsmen, and other conservationists voice their concerns with this bill, it could gain ground outside of the House of Representatives if it doesn’t die in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee. With a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, however, this bill shouldn’t advance beyond the House.

Contact Subcommittee Democrats here and Republicans here and urge them to vote NO on H.R. 2532 before tomorrow’s scheduled hearing.

The hearing will be broadcast here tomorrow at 2pm ET.


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