While many Americans were watching the debacle to reform health care, Congress was quietly and without fanfare passing bills that allow for the brutal killing of hibernating grizzly bears on federal wildlife refuges in Alaska.
Ostensibly, the bills, H.J.Res 69 and S.J. Res. 18, sponsored by Alaska Rep. Don Young, a former licensed trapper, and signed into law by President Donald Trump, seek to increase populations of game animals by eliminating predator species.
But ask a biologist and he or she will tell you that ecosystems, left alone, balance themselves without the help of trophy hunters in aircraft shooting wolves and grizzlies. The bill also allows for the use of leghold traps and neck snares; hunters may also kill nursing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens.
Ironically, the majority of Alaskans were opposed to the passage of these bills. They recognize that many tourists who visit their state are wildlife watchers, tourists who contribute more than $2 billion to Alaska’s economy. They are not visiting to watch the barbaric murder of America’s native wildlife or to applaud so-called “sportsmen” skulking around in the underbrush.
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Why should Californians care about what’s happening in Alaska? These are National Wildlife Refuges, where such despicable practices are taking place, lands visited by people from all over the country. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these public lands were designed to conserve “wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of the present and future generations of Americans.”
While hunting is allowed on some national wildlife refuges, killing cubs and pups in their dens for the purpose of falsely inflating game populations is a new low.
Californians should also care because these acts call into question the humanity of some of those who have been elected to Congress. No doubt, money from the NRA as well as the Safari Club, supporters of the bills, made such a vote easier.
Perhaps it is not such a slippery slope to compare the ease with which these representatives allow for the inhumane killing of wildlife to plans afoot to eliminate many programs that benefit the poor.
Societies are judged on how they treat the weak, the vulnerable. When compassion flies out the window and cruelty flies in, we are left with social as well as financial turmoil, some of which we are now witnessing.
President Trump called America a “nation of killers.” These two bills suggest, in this instance, that sadly, he is correct.
Judie Rae is a local freelance writer and retired college English instructor. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.