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Votes take refuge out of national wildlife refuges

By Staff | Apr 5, 2017

To the editor:

I want to make the residents of Sanibel, who generally like to think of themselves as conservation-minded, aware of the recent votes of our new congressman, Francis Rooney and our Republican senator Marco Rubio, both of whom voted in favor of HJ Res 69. For those who are not aware of what this resolution is, it allows unsportsmanlike killing of large predators namely bears and wolves and their cubs, including when they are in their dens or hibernating. Where is this hunting allowed? Well, of course, in our Alaskan National Wildlife Refuges. I guess that’s what wildlife refuges are for these days – a free-for-all for trophy hunters.

According to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, this resolution allows the following: Killing black bear cubs or mothers with cubs at den sites; killing brown bears over bait; trapping and killing brown and black bears with steel-jaw leghold traps or wire snares; killing wolves and coyotes during denning season; and killing brown and black bears from aircraft. I think most people will agree this is not just hunting, but slaughtering these animals in the most inhumane way possible. This resolution was heavily supported by the NRA and Safari Club International, which likely gets to the crux of the matter of why this was able to pass.

The reason that legislators give for their support is a state’s rights argument to allow Alaska to manage their own wildlife, but this goes against what Alaskans want. In addition, national wildlife refuges are under federal, not state authority, making their argument less than compelling. According to HSUS, a 2016 poll conducted by Remington Research Group showed that Alaska voters strongly support eliminating these cruel and unsporting practices used to kill bears and wolves on national wildlife refuges in their state. Reducing grizzly bear and wolf numbers on refuges is a certain way to adversely affect tourism and hurts gateway communities to national wildlife refuges that benefit immensely from visits from people from all over the world who hope to see a family of wolves or a mother bear with her cubs. Wildlife tourism contributes over $2 billion to Alaska’s economy.

This resolution already passed both the house and senate essentially along a party-line vote and likely will be signed into law.

It is so discouraging that our legislative representatives voted in favor of brutally cruel and unfair wildlife killing practices in a wildlife refuge in opposition to what wildlife biologists have recommended and what the residents of that state and the country in general favor. Although it will do little good at this point, if you are against these kind of activities that benefit only trophy hunters and political campaign coffers, voice your opinion to and withhold your future campaign contributions from these so-called representatives who don’t really seem to care much what their constituents think.

Robin Churchill