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National Govt & Politics
Tribes seek ban on public hunting of revered grizzly bears
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Tribes seek ban on public hunting of revered grizzly bears

Tribes seek ban on public hunting of revered grizzly bears
Photo Credit: Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun via AP, File
FILE - In this March 12, 2007 file photo, Ben Nuvamsa, chairman of the Hopi Tribe, speaks at a news conference in Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, Ariz. Native American groups are pressing for permanent protections for grizzly bears, a species some tribes consider sacred but that has been proposed for hunting in Wyoming and Idaho. Tribal representatives were scheduled to appear Wednesday, May 15, 2019, before Congress in support of legislation to block grizzly hunting in the Lower 48 states, regardless of the species' population size. Nuvamsa says grizzlies play a central role in the traditions and ceremonies of many tribes. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun via AP, File)

Tribes seek ban on public hunting of revered grizzly bears

Native American leaders pressed lawmakers in Congress Wednesday to adopt permanent protections for grizzly bears, a species widely revered by tribes but that has been proposed for hunting in Wyoming and Idaho.

Proposed legislation would block grizzly hunting in the Lower 48 states, regardless of the species' population size, and allow for the reintroduction of bruins to tribal lands.

Grizzlies play a central role in the traditions and ceremonies of many tribes, said former Hopi Tribe chairman Benjamin Nuvamsa. Some Native Americans refer to them as "Uncle" or "Grandfather" and consider the animals to be healers.

"It's like the eagle; we don't shoot them because it's that sacred," said Nuvamsa, a member of the tribe's Hopi Bear Clan. "It has a really, really deep meaning for us, and we have to preserve and respect it."

But the push for permanent protections elicited sharp criticism from some Republicans as a House subcommittee took up the legislation. The backlash stems from growing pressure by state officials in the Northern Rockies to allow hunting because of grizzly attacks on livestock and occasionally people.

The House panel's ranking Republican, California Rep. Tom McClintock, said the proposal runs counter to the conclusions of government scientists. They say grizzlies have made significant strides toward recovery, particularly in and around Yellowstone National Park.

"The science tells us the population is fully recovered," McClintock said. "This bill substitutes emotional, ideological and sentimental biases that are the polar opposite of scientific resource management."

Montana Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte also spoke out against the bill. He noted that grizzlies increasingly are showing up in agricultural areas where there is greater risk of run-ins.

Last fall, a federal judge in Montana blocked grizzly hunts days before they were scheduled to begin. The ruling also restored threatened species status for about 700 bears in the three-state Yellowstone region.

An appeal filed by attorneys for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Grizzly bears were nearly exterminated across much of the U.S. by hunting and trapping early last century. They received federal protections in 1975, and they have since slowly rebounded in portions of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Grizzly hunting is allowed in Alaska.

The move to make protections permanent is sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. The Arizona Democrat said the intent was to recognize and honor the bear's unique place in Native American tradition, by giving them protections beyond what's offered under the Endangered Species Act.

"The pressure from Fish and Wildlife is going to continue in this administration, and it's going to continue for delisting," said Grijalva, referring to the agency's thwarted attempt to revoke the bruins' threatened species status. Such a move would transfer authority over the animals to state game agencies.

Hunting grizzlies "is not a sport to native peoples," Grijalva added.

Jonathan Wood, a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center, said the measure would discourage states and landowners from cooperating in future efforts to restore imperiled species and undermine the goal of restoring grizzlies to more of their historical range.

Grijalva has offered similar legislation before but it went nowhere. It stands a better chance of advancing with Democrats now in control of the House, but it would face a tougher road in the Senate.

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Washington Insider

  • The struggle between Democrats in the House and President Donald Trump over the Russia investigation intensified on Monday with the White House telling former Counsel Don McGahn not to honor a subpoena for  his testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, as Democrats said it was all part of a broad effort the President and the Trump Administration to stonewall Congress about the Mueller Report and other investigations. In a letter to Democrats, McGahn's lawyer William Burck said, 'the President has unambiguously directed my client not to comply with the Committee’s subpoena for testimony.' 'Under these circumstances, and also conscious of the duties he, as an attorney, owes to his former client, Mr. McGahn must decline to appear at the hearing,' the letter added. Democrats said they would still convene the hearing at 10 am EDT on Tuesday, as they held out the possibility of finding McGahn in contempt, just as the same committee voted to find Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to honor a subpoena for an unredacted version of the Mueller Report. Democrats wanted testimony from McGahn because of the information he gave to investigators for the Mueller investigation, in which McGahn detailed repeated demands by President Trump to oust the Special Counsel. While President Trump has sternly denied that he ever ordered McGahn to get rid of Mueller, the evidence offered by the Special Counsel painted a different picture. McGahn testified that the President called him on June 17, 2017 - about a month after Mueller had been named as Special Counsel - and pressed for Mueller to be ousted, an order that McGahn repeatedly ignored. On page 300 of the Mueller Report, 'McGahn recalled the President telling him 'Mueller has to go' and 'Call me back when you do it.''  The Mueller Report described McGahn - who reportedly answered questions for 30 hours over multiple interviews - as a 'credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate.' McGahn also claimed in his testimony that once news of the President's request was reported in the press, Mr. Trump then pressed McGahn to dispute the veracity of the story that the President had pressed for Mueller's ouster. McGahn refused to do what the President had asked. The White House based its refusal for McGahn to testify on a new 15 page legal opinion from the Justice Department, which said McGahn - as a former top adviser - was under no requirement to testify before Congress. 'The President's immediate advisers are an extension of the President and are likewise entitled to absolute immunity from compelled congressional testimony,' the Office of Legal Counsel opinion stated. In summary, the Justice Department said simply, 'we conclude that Mr. McGahn is not legally required to appear before the Committee.' Democrats denounced the decision, and charged it was just adding more evidence to what they say is a cover up, focused on obscuring obstruction of justice by President Trump. 'This move is just the latest act of obstruction from the White House that includes its blanket refusal to cooperate with this Committee,' said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 'The President is intimidating witnesses and stonewalling the American people and the rule of law. Congress and the American people deserve answers from Mr. McGahn,' said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA). '(T)he White House Counsel serves interests of the American people, not the President, and their conversations do not have the protection of blanket attorney-client privilege,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). 'It’s pretty clear what the Trump Administration is doing here,' said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), 'they’re trying to hide the facts from the American people.' Democrats have promised to move forward to hold McGahn in Contempt of Congress - but there has also been discussion of other penalties, from what is known as 'inherent contempt' - which could involve levying fines against those who refuse to cooperate with investigations by Congress. 'The cover-up continues,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). 'And we will fight it.