The wording aimed at the EPA is so broad that opponents of the bill say it could block the agency from regulating, for example, perchlorate, a component of explosives and rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in children and pregnant women and has been found in drinking water in 35 states.
And, in this grab bag of a bill, there’s the issue of polar bear trophies. The federal government banned the importation of polar bear pelts four years ago, when it listed the species under the Endangered Species Act. The Sportsmen’s Act, however, allows a one-time importation of 41 polar bear trophies killed in Canada by U.S. hunters before 2008.
Those trophies — tanned skin and claws, skull and the traditionally prized penis bone — have been in cold storage in Canada.
The Sportsman’s Act, authored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is a collection of 17 provisions that would seem to have something for everyone.
The bill would boost the amount of available funds for conserving fish and wildlife along with their habitat, and expand opportunities for hunters and anglers to target wild species. It would make it easier for the federal government to buy land to improve access to public lands for hunters and anglers.
The bill also would raise the price of duck stamps — proceeds of which help fund wetlands protection — for the first time in two decades and allow the interior secretary to reevaluate their price every three years. Maryland, Louisiana and other coastal states would be eligible for funding to eradicate nutria, or swamp rats.
The measure also would reauthorize several federal programs and institutions that work to protect wildlife, such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and a program issuing stamps to raise money for elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, marine turtles and great apes.
But a dispute has emerged over the provision on lead. The Center for Biological Diversity and other advocacy groups have pushed unsuccessfully for the EPA to ban lead in hunting and fishing equipment.
Lead is a significant component of ammunition, as well as some fishing gear: At least 14,000 tons of lead is introduced into the environment every year by U.S. hunters and anglers, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lead shot and tackle left on the ground or in waterways are consumed by birds and other wildlife, often with deadly results.