- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Everybody in the hunting community is happy because a bill that would have outlawed the hunting of bears over bait on federal lands was voted down in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Originally, the bill, viewed as the kind of legislation that kowtowed to the animal-rights movement, was withdrawn from consideration during a U.S. House Resources Committee hearing. However, the bill (HR 1472) was later repackaged as an amendment on an Interior Appropriations bill considered by the full House. Rep. Elton Gallegly, California Republican, ignored the concerns of congressional colleagues, the testimony of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies against his bill to ban the practice of hunting bears over bait on federal public lands. He made an amendment motion similar to the HR 1472 bill he unsuccessfully introduced only to see his amendment voted down 255 to 163.

Said the Safari Club International: “For months SCI has been encouraging sportsmen and women to sound off to their elected officials against the deceptively named ‘Don’t Feed the Bears Act’ championed by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal-rights extremists. Thankfully, our calls, e-mails, face-to-face meetings with elected officials and prayers have been answered. The authority of state agencies to manage precious wildlife resources has not been usurped by wild ideas from a Congressman [that] the Associated Press reports has pushed animal welfare issues for 16 years.”

To be perfectly honest, I don’t give a hoot whether bears are hunted over bait. I have nothing against it one way or another. However, what makes me proud is the resolve shown by our representatives in Congress.

All too often, Congress is accused of waffling and teeter-tottering, not being able to come to a consensus. Well, friends, they did on this issue, and they did it with bravado.

It goes to show, after all, that our elected officials can see when a phony bill is in the offing. They knew there was no way anybody would have allowed the annihilation of what mostly would be black bears. Not by a long shot.

Good for the U.S. Congress and good for hunters everywhere.

Bass champ wins cable TV award — Texas bass pro Jay Yelas added yet another honor to his recent string of sports titles Wednesday. The reigning Bassmaster Classic fishing champion received an ESPY award for Best Outdoor Sports Athlete at ceremonies at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre. The award show was aired on ESPN last week.

“It was a unique thrill and just a tremendous honor to be recognized by the whole sports universe for my fishing accomplishments,” Yelas said.

Yelas is just the second person to win an ESPY in the outdoor sports category, which debuted in 2002, following fellow BASS angler Kevin Van Dam. Yelas also is the 2003 BASS Angler of the Year and picked up similar honors on the Forrest L. Wood Tour in 2002. Yelas accepted his ESPY award amidst a crowd of celebrity athletes that included Emmitt Smith, Michael Vick, Serena Williams and Barry Bonds.

Saltwater license for Tarheels — A North Carolina House of Representatives legislative panel said the state is ready to begin having a saltwater fishing license after its sponsors agreed to cut the proposed annual fee by a third and eliminate the exemption for anglers on piers and charter boats.

The Associated Press reports the state’s House Finance Committee recommended the measure, which would generate millions of dollars annually toward efforts to better monitor and restore ailing fish stocks in coastal waters. It’s the third time since 1999 the saltwater license idea has moved in the House, although it has yet to pass in the Senate.

The latest version sets a one-year saltwater fishing license at $10. A 10-day permit could be bought for $5. People 62 and over and those under 16 wouldn’t need a license.

Also removed from the latest version is a provision requiring piers and charter boats to get blanket licenses for people who fish there. That would have eliminated the need for the occasional fishermen or tourist to get a license for a couple hours of fishing; now those people would have to get licenses as well.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected].

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