Baldwin, Kleczka lose on proposed bear baiting ban

Associate Editor

Washington, D.C. A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to
ban bear baiting on national forest lands was pulled last week by
its author. Just two days later, House members voted down an
amendment to a larger bill that would’ve imposed the ban.

Wisconsin wildlife officials said the legislation would have
hampered their attempts to manage the state’s bear population.
Statewide about 70 percent of the 2002 harvest occurred over bait.
However, the bill would’ve affected just federally managed land,
such as the Chequamegon and Nicolet national forests.

The “Don’t Feed the Bears Act of 2003” had nearly 200 House
co-sponsors, including Wisconsin Democrats Tammy Baldwin and Jerry
Kleczka. Chief authors of the bill were Democrat Jim Moran of
Virginia and Republican Elton Gallegly of California. The bill
would have prohibited feeding of bears on federal public lands,
including those managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land
Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was
supported by several anti-hunting groups, including the Humane
Society of the United States.

But before a House Resources Committee vote last week, Moran
withdrew the bill.

“It was not going to get out of that committee,” said Doug
Jeanneret, communications director for the U.S. Sportsmen’s
Alliance (USSA). “It didn’t have the votes and it was going to get
killed.”

Jeanneret said authors will pull their bills if it appears they
won’t pass, and introduce them later, without the stigma that
they’ve been shot down before.

It didn’t take long for the bill to reappear. Just two days
later, bear bait banning language was offered by Gallegly as an
amendment to an Interior Department appropriations bill. The
amendment’s purpose, it was stated, was to “restrict the use of
funds by the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management to
administer any action related to the baiting of bears except to
prevent or prohibit such activity.”

Three years ago an anti-trapping measure passed the House as an
amendment attached to a larger, broader bill, only to be rejected
in the Senate and eliminated during Senate/House
reconciliation.

This time, the amendment failed, 255 to 163. Baldwin and Kleczka
voted in favor of the amendment.

“America’s sportsmen knew that these anti-hunting attacks would
threaten more than just bear hunting,” Rob Sexton, USSA vice
president for government affairs said following the July 17 vote on
the amendment. “House Resolution 1472 and the Interior
Appropriations amendment would have opened the door for the federal
government to control wildlife issues. This, despite the fact that
state wildlife agencies are charged with the responsibility of
managing resident wildlife, like black bears, that occur on federal
lands.”

Currently nine states, including Wisconsin, allow baiting for
bears by hunters. Other states that allow bear baiting are
Minnesota, Michigan, Alaska, Maine, Idaho, New Hampshire, Utah, and
Wyoming.

Opponents to bear baiting said the practice raises safety, as
well as ethical, issues.

The National Rifle Association said at one point the House bill
had gathered over 180 cosponsors. “But 21 lawmakers withdrew their
support as the NRA turned up its lobbying effort,” stated an NRA
news release.

“We’re very pleased Congress saw through it for what it was an
attempt by groups that support banning hunting in all forms from
taking one step toward that position,” said the NRA’s Chris
Cox.

The USSA had developed the National Bear Hunting Defense Task
Force to stop the bill. Several bear hunting groups joined the
effort, including some from states where baiting isn’t allowed.
Members of the task force include the Wisconsin Bowhunters
Association, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Michigan State
United Coonhunters, Minnesota Bowhunters, the North American Bear
Hunters Alliance, and others.

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