For five years, Alaska U.S. Sen. Don Young has been working to pass legislation on behalf of just 41 American big-game hunters. The 41 shot polar bears in Canada before May 2008, when the bears were protected under the Endangered Species Act, but they didn't bring their trophies back to the U.S. before a ban on importation took effect. (Polar bear hunting remains legal in Canada.)
The National Journal reports that the U.S. House is set to pass Young's legislation allowing the 41 hunters to reclaim their trophies from cold storage in Canada. His bill is part of the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act. But the act's passage in the Senate is less certain, though the Obama administration has endorsed the Young provision.
The SHARE Act of 2012, which also included Young's provision, died there last year over concerns from conservationists and environmental activists over a number of provisions, including the polar bear trophy importation fix. The new SHARE Act is thought to be much less restrictive than its 2012 cousin, however, and advocates are hopeful that it will pass. "Should've made it last Congress. Should make it this one," Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said.
The legislation has some bipartisan support, particularly from Western members, including Young, Tester and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "It's important to recognize that these were taken in a legal hunt and yet the hunters weren't able to return with those," Murkowski said. "So it's really just a simple matter of observing fairness in the law. And I think it's something that makes sense to try to address."
Allowing the trophies to return to the U.S. could be beneficial for conservation efforts as well, they argue. Between 1997 and 2008, 969 polar bear trophies were imported from Canada to the United States, bringing in $969,000 in fees that went to the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Conservation Fund, according to the text of Young's legislation. These 41 hunters would add an additional $41,000 to those funds for conservation efforts.
A 2011 Daily News story about Young's efforts on behalf of the hunters can be found here.