‘Spirit of the Wild ……The Dead Sea Lion Edition’

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The House Natural Resources Committee is set to hold hearings on a bill that could provide Ted Nugent the perfect premise for a special episode of his hunting show: “Spirit of the Wild ……The Dead Sea Lion Edition.”

Tuesday lawmakers will be considering bipartisan legislation that will allow for the killing of California sea lions along the Columbia River to protect the endangered salmon that reside in its waters.

“As Northwest residents spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to protect salmon, California sea lions camp out at Bonneville Dam and gorge themselves on endangered fish,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman and bill sponsor Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican. “With all other methods exhausted, lethal removal of the most aggressive sea lions is often the only option left to deter predation, help protect endangered salmon and recoup more of our region’s substantial investment in salmon recovery.”

The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act (H.R. 946), introduced in March, would allow Washington, Oregon, and the four area treaty tribes get year-long leases to eliminate a limited number of sea lions hunting in the Columbia River.

“Tribal members remember a time where balance existed in a healthy and functioning environment,” said Bruce Jim, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC). “The predation of salmon by sea lions is an impact that can’t be ignored.”

The legislation follows a January ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which blocked states and tribes from killing the California sea lions.

(The match-up we’ve been waiting for: CNN panel features Ted Nugent and Roseanne Barr)

The Human Society is not thrilled with the prospect of this legislation becoming law. According to Sharon Young, marine issues field director for The Humane Society, killing seal lions will not solve the problem.

“If you kill some of them others come, so you don’t actually stop anything,” Young told TheDC. “You are just killing sea lions and making it look like you’re doing something, where in fact you are not doing anything at all because sea lions come and go all the time and completely obviates any benefit you might get from removing some of them. It simply doesn’t work.”

Young will be testifying before the committee Tuesday morning along with Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator for National Marine Fisheries Service; Guy Norman of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife; Robin Brown, of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Virgil Lewis Yakama Nation tribal council member.

Of course, should H.R. 946 -as it currently stands- pass and Nugent were to begin salivating for some sea lion, he would have to join one of the four tribes named in the legislation, or become a Washington or Oregon state official as the legislation limits the lethal removal to those official entities.

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