Ottawa Sportsmen's Club NewsJune 5, 2003
Carole Williams, Club Reporter
Please Note: Even if you do not hunt bear, it is imperative that you, as a sportsman, understand the issues that will follow. Any proposed legislation that negatively affects the time-honored rights of any sportsman, regardless of his sporting interests, could have an ultimate negative impact on the rights of all. All Sportsmen must unite so as to not allow the animal rights activists and anti-gun lobbyists to divide and conquer, one small skirmish at a time. There is a war being waged to eliminate all hunting on any land and we cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand and then ask "What happened?" after the fighting is done and our rights and firearms have been taken away. And if you don't think this could happen, consider that Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who has been engaged in battle with the NRA for years and who is a strong proponent for stricter gun control legislation, is rumored to have plans to introduce companion legislation to HR-1472 in the Senate soon.
HR-1472, also known as the "Don't Feed The Bears Act of 2003", would effectively abolish the right of sportsmen to hunt bear over bait on all Federal lands in all states that allow this practice. It was introduced in the House of Representative on March 27, 2003 by Elton Gallegy (R-CA) and co-sponsored at that time by Jim Moran (D-VA). Both represent urban areas of their state with large populations of people, but very few, if any, wild bear. (Ventura and Santa Barbara in CA and Alexandria in VA.)
The Act calls for the following regulation: "The Secretary of the Interior, with respect to lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to National Forest System lands, shall each adopt and enforce a regulation to prohibit individuals from intentionally feeding bears, including feeding for the purpose of enticing bears to a particular area to be hunted, a practice known as 'bear baiting'."
A complete copy of the Act can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/ by searching for HR 1472. Its status can also be tracked in the same manner.
A hearing has been scheduled for June 12th before the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans of the House Resources Committee. The bill is expected to face strong opposition within the committee, especially from Representative Don Young of Alaska, a member of this Subcommittee.
The points or "findings" listed as reasons to adopt this legislation are 13 in number, and include: the negative impact of littering to the forest floor, that bait stations allow an increase of food resulting in higher birth rate and so increase the bear population (also cited as a plus rather than minus by many state wildlife biologists who also assert that bear baiting is an excellent management practice), that bear are emboldened to approach people and property in search of food, that property damage is a result of bears being fed by humans, that human food poses a safety threat and attacks on humans, and that bears become nuisance animals and are killed as a means of protecting people and property.
Sportsmen, especially those who hunt over bait, can effectively refute most of these findings as pure nonsense promulgated by those who have no understanding of hunting or the baiting process. Hunters, unlike many inexperienced Federal land "visitors", know full well that bear are worthy foe and therefore exercise more than average caution while hunting.
However, in a nutshell, the central issue appears to revolve around the inconsistency of Federal land management agencies to demand that "visitors" to federal lands not feed the bears while they allow this practice by "bear hunters".
It may be a matter of semantics, but this writer finds it hard to lump hunters into a category of what might be considered as vacationing "visitors" foolishly tossing foodstuff out of car windows so as to get a better look at the wildlife.
However, since some feel there is inconsistency in the "rules" rather than a semantics problem, perhaps one way to solve the problem is to remove the inconsistency by stating that visitors, other than those who possess a license to hunt bear, shall not, under penalty of law, feed the bear on Federal land. Is it really necessary to punish the nation's bear hunters because there appears to be an inconsistency in the way the law is interpreted?
Or is the real issue the fact that bear baiting is seen as a weak point in hunting rights and therefore exploitable by anti-hunting animal welfare organizations who, through their membership's support at the polls, encourage congressmen, desperate enough for votes, to repeatedly propose the same anti-hunting legislation which has been defeated several times?
There are 27 states that allow bear baiting and of these, hunters in only 9 states have not been forced to give up their right to use bait while hunting bear. The states that would be affected are Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Alaska, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah, and Wyoming. And at least one state that has banned bear baiting in the past has since then reconsidered and reinstated that right.
To date there are 69 new co-sponsors of HR-1472 for a total of 72. One more congressman jumped on the Gallegly-Moran bandwagon in March, 28 others endorsed the proposed Act in April, and 41 more showed their approval by signing on as co-sponsors in May. Unfortunately, Michigan's 12th Congressional District Representative, Sanders Levin, who represents a population divided between the Detroit area's Oakland and Macomb Counties, is one of them. Not many wild bears down there!
That so many representatives have suddenly come to co-sponsor this bill is most likely due in large part to the efforts of several animal rights activist organizations, including the United States Humane Society, long noted as being the nation's largest anti-hunting organization. Many of these organization's websites are calling for support of HR-1472 and some have gone so far as to post sample letters to congressmen, which can then be printed on home computers, signed and mailed.
That this is an effective tool in the effort to convince Representatives in all states to co-sponsor this Act may be supported by the fact that some of these people, Deborah Pryce (R-OH) for instance, have posted their supportive position on their professional websites and the reasons given for their position parrots the reasons listed in the sample letters. The common thread of reasoning seems to be that bear baiting is the unholy act of shooting bear at point blank range while their heads are buried deep in piles of jelly doughnuts and pizza. It should be apparent to John Q. Public that to parrot a "canned" letter for purposes of reasoning would most likely indicate that no personal thought or time had been given to considering the issue or its ramifications.
Personally, offering this sort of parroted reasoning in support of this bill raises a red flag. I have hunted bear over bait and know there is just no way a bear would immerse his sensory organs in a goodie pile while I walked boldly up to him at point blank range with or without a loaded gun. And so, I'm in agreement with Representative Collin Peterson, D-MN, who has said that criticism of bear baiting seems to be coming from "typical urban people who don't hunt" and who don't understand the issues. Representative Peterson is co-chairman of the Executive Council of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus.
HR-1472 was referred on March 31st to the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans, the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, and to the USDA-Interior for Executive Comment.
Elton Gallegly serves on the National Parks and Public Lands Subcommittee. The U. S. Humane Society honored Gallegly with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" in April of 2002 for his efforts on behalf of animals. He was also lauded by the Humane Society for his success in the area of animal protection law and cited as one of the humane movements most effective advocates on Capitol Hill. There is no need to wonder why he was an original co-sponsor of HR-1472, along with Moran.
Jim Moran is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and serves on the Interior Subcommittee. He is noted for slipping last minute amendments into bills (known as "tag-along" amendments) and nearly succeeded in banning trapping in the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1999. He introduced the "Bear Baiting Ban" legislation into congress as a tag-along amendment to an Interior Appropriations bill in 2001, but fortunately this was defeated 35-27 by the House Appropriations Committee. He vowed then to reintroduce it and appears to have found a cohort in the form of Elton Gallegly. Moran has been repeatedly under fire for unethical professional behavior including racial slurs against the Jewish community, as well as inappropriate personal behavior, all of which can be reviewed at http://www.morantics.com.
Moran, who also has the support of the U. S. Humane Society, as well as other animal rights groups, has vowed to pursue the issue of bear baiting either as a "stand alone" bill or as an amendment to a spending bill. He maintains that bear baiting "is a cruel, despicable practice that must not be allowed to continue." He has gone on record to say, "We will stop so-called sportsmen from killing bears like they would be shooting fish in a barrel."
Constitutionally, bear hunting is under the jurisdiction of state governments and should not be the concern of the Federal government. The states that allow bear baiting have a perfectly legitimate right to do so and should be able to do so without interference from the Federal government.
And please, do not confuse this issue with hunting in Federal Parks, as nearly all hunting on these properties has been outlawed for many years. To quote Jim Beers, a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service wildlife biologist, law enforcement officer, and refuge manager: "This legislation will affect the other 98% of Federal lands in nine states that are "owned and managed" by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which already prohibits bear baiting on national wildlife refuges, by The Bureau of Reclamation, The US Army Corps of Engineers, and all the state managed lands purchased in part by "Federal" dollars."
According to Jim Beers, "Methods of bear hunting are Constitutionally, and have been for over two hundred years, under the sole authority of state governments elected by the residents of each state." He goes on to state, " The danger here is the continuing precedent that some politician can introduce legislation that substitutes Federal authorities for state responsibilities as described in our Constitution. The millions of acres managed by USFS, BLM, USFWS, and others should always accommodate state jurisdictions just like any corporation who represents its stockholders and its customers (you and me). We own them, IT IS NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!"
The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is an organization that supports the rights of each State to make its own judgment in regard to bear baiting and maintains that federal intrusion into this realm is unwarranted. It firmly believes that there is established law that states have primary jurisdiction and authority to regulate the taking of resident species of wildlife and fish and this established law would extend the state's authority to hunting and angling on Federal lands.
The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, headquartered in Ohio, is dedicated to protecting the rights of hunters, anglers, and trappers on a national level in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress, and through public education programs. They do this through coalition building, ballot issue campaigning, and legislative and government relations.
In opposition to HR 1472, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance has developed a National Bear Hunting Defense Task Force, which at present is an already impressive coalition of bear hunting and bow hunting organizations, and has begun the first steps to protect bear hunting from proposed Federal legislation that would cripple the sport.
The USSA is supplying coordination, funding, and lobbying services, while other Task Force members are providing grassroots resources and funding to pay for mailings into targeted congressional districts. More information about The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the National Bear Hunting Defense Task Force can be found online at http://www.ussportsmen.org. You'll find a picture of a bear on the home page with the message to "Get Involved". Just click on the bear to read the alerts regarding HR-1472.
Rob Sexton, USSA Vice President for Government Affairs states, " the bill is a huge threat to hunting and wildlife management programs across the country. Moran's bill opens the door for Federal management of all wildlife."
I was directed by our membership to inquire as to how the Ottawa Sportsmen can help the Bear Hunting Defense Task Force. Tony Celebrezze, USSA Field Director, responded by advising that the Alliance is asking those organizations interested in joining the Task Force to make a contribution of from $500.00 to $1,000.00. This will help cover the Alliance's costs for lobbying efforts, targeted mailings to stimulate grassroots action in key congressional districts and more. They also ask to be allowed to use the club's name on the Bear Hunting Defense Task Force letterhead and that we provide them with contact information for our members should they decide to mail postcards to generate additional grassroots action in opposition to HR-1472. It would be a burdensome task for me to type all those addresses, but if that is what is needed should we vote to join the Task Force, then so be it.
While $500.00 does seem like a lot of money, we have approximately 400 Ottawa Sportsmen residing in many states, including some of those other than Michigan that will be affected by HR-1472, and a contribution of that size would actually amount to only $1.25 per member. So, in reality, $500.00 is a small price for us to pay to help ensure that the rights of all sportsmen will be protected from the efforts of the anti-gun, anti-hunting, anti-sportsmen, radical animal welfare and animal rights organizations that have masqueraded their desire to abolish all hunting in a snit raised over an inconsistency in interpreting the laws regarding the use of all Federal lands by "visitors". Heck, we've raised more than that already this year on an in-house "plate raffle".
I'm positive that individuals can also give personal contributions to the Defense Fund and know for a fact that "general" memberships to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance are just $25.00 annually. Those interested in privately donating should send whatever they can afford, earmarked for the Bear Hunters Defense Task Force, to U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, 801 Kingsmill Parkway, Columbus, OH 43229. The same is true for memberships and I have been advised that it would be very nice to mention the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club in any communication you send.
I was also directed by our membership to contact the Michigan United Conservation Clubs to learn what that organization's position was on HR-1472. Executive Director Sam Washington responded to say that he had "personally contacted Representative John Dingell in Washington DC as soon as they had received notice that the bill had been introduced and was assured by his staff that the bill would be killed if possible". He went on to state that he "had heard nothing more about it since that time in early April."
Sam also asked that I let him know if I heard anything more about the bill on this end. When I forwarded some of the facts presented at our June 2nd membership meeting, including the status of the bill, he responded to say that he would contact Dingell's office again and had done so by 9:30 a.m. today, June 4th.
In a follow-up message, Sam, who is also a member of the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club, asserts that the best course of action at present is for all of us to "start hammering" representatives with phone calls and e-mails - especially Sanders Levin, whom he said he would call today.
The local phone number in Houghton, Michigan for Bart Stupak's staff is 906-482-1371 and the office hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. til 1 p.m. The toll free number is 1-800-950-7371. You can direct letters to: The Honorable Representative Bart Stupak, Washington DC Staff, 2352 Rayburn House Office Bldg., Washington DC 20575. E-mail messages can be sent by going to http://www.house.gov/writerep or from the website http://www.house.gov/stupak by clicking on Write Your Representative. If you do not know your 4-digit postal extension number, just click on it and follow the directions. Mine went out this morning and I found the first address more preferable.
Each O.S.C. member, each visitor to the web site, and all of their friends and relatives who are registered voters are encouraged to write, call, or E-Mail their congressmen in opposition to this bill. This is critically and urgently needed to be done so as to help defeat the "Don't Feed The Bears Act of 2003". If you are confused about the name of your Congressman, use the Legislation Action Center at http://www.ussportsmen.org or go to http://thomas.loc.gov. I tried both and it's easy.
In your own words, explain that you are contacting him or her because you are opposed to HR 1472, proposed legislation that would ban bear baiting on all Federal lands. In your own words, briefly explain why you are opposed to this bill whether it is for your own reasons or because of something you've learned through reading this alert. In your own words, strongly urge them to oppose HR 1472. And should your Congressman already have arrived at a decision to co-sponsor this bill, he can most definitely change his mind. This letter writing, phone call, and E-Mail campaign is imperative affirmative action that must be taken immediately by all sportsmen in the nation in order to protect our hunting heritage!
Here's my message sent via E-Mail:
Dear Honorable Representative Stupak:
I am a registered voter who lives near Pelkie, Michigan. I am a bear hunter and I value my right to hunt over bait in the thousands of Federally owned wilderness acres that surround my home. I am adamantly opposed to HR 1472, proposed legislation that would ban bear baiting on all Federal lands. I do not believe that the Federal government should interfere with the rights of the states that have justly and Constitutionally been given to them so that they can manage their own natural resources and wildlife. I strongly urge you to oppose HR 1472 and hope to see that position posted to your website in the very near future.
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