- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

Is it possible that the well-regulated sport hunting of polar bears can be the reason why there are so many of them? And is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service way off target because it wants to put the polar bear on the “threatened” list that is part of the Endangered Species Act — all of it in the name of global warming?

A pro-hunting group in the United States and more than one Canadian expert dispute the Department of the Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service, saying that ESA “threatened species” status for the great bears would be nothing less than a political gesture that has nothing to do with reality.

At an Interior hearing earlier this month, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance representative David Lampp testified against the proposal, saying it will do nothing to address environmental factors that are claimed to pose long-term threats to the bears’ numbers.

“There are healthy, well-managed polar bear populations in Canada that [could] provide excellent hunting opportunities for American sportsmen,” Lampp said. “Their success is due in large part to hunting, which provides funding for research and conservation. The unwarranted, blanket listing sought by the service will bring an immediate end to conservation revenue from U.S. hunters, who account for approximately 90 percent of the foreign clientele for polar bear hunting in Canada.”

If the “shooting one bear can help others” claim appears to be nutty reasoning, think again. Many an African wildlife species would now be endangered or totally gone had it not been for the huge sums of money spent by visiting American and European hunters. Expensive licensing fees have allowed local governments to pay for research, law enforcement and conservation of animals that otherwise would be left to their own devices in places where mindless poaching is a cottage industry.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance says putting the white bears on the threatened species list would not only jeopardize existing bear populations, it would also fail to address the problem that the F&WS; identifies as a threat to the species: climate changes.

“The service names the loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change — not hunting — as the threat to polar bears,” Lampp said. “Listing the polar bear as threatened will not stop climate change, thus the listing will not address the perceived threat.”

According to Lampp, during the hearing wildlife officials admitted that the science behind their decision to try to list the bears was based on estimates and assumptions. The F&WS; certainly has not determined how the listing would allow them to address climate change.

That hasn’t stopped the Internet’s Bloomberg letter or the prestigious Audobon magazine from jumping in with a little flawed thinking. They, too, believe global warming has hurt the polar bears.

Meanwhile, the Canadians say there are bears galore. In fact, “they’re breeding like fleas,” as one tough Ontario hunter with whom I’ve hunted black bears put it.

He might have a point. Even if a great deal of the polar ice undergoes lamentable melting, who’s to say the bears could not adapt to less icy surroundings? As long as they find food and some kind of unbothered habitat, they might well be nicely managed and even thrive.

Currently, the Ohio-based USSA is preparing written comments regarding its opposition to the F&WS; proposal. A final decision on the listing will be made in January 2008, after a public comment period and scientific review.

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


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