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Alaska wolves: Miller introduces bill to outlaw airborne hunting of wolves & bears

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, July 30th, 2009 at 7:25 am in Wolves.

Bill outlaws controversial airborne hunting of wolves and bears.

Alaska’s wolves and bears would be protected from the controversial practice of airborne hunting under legislation introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) on Wednesday (July 29). The Protect America’s Wildlife Act, or PAW Act, protects wolves, bears, and other wildlife from the unethical, unscientific, and unsportsmanlike practice of shooting these animals from airplanes and helicopters.

The PAW Act closes a loophole in the 1971 Airborne Hunting Act that outlawed airborne hunting across the nation. Alaska officials have exploited that loophole to permit individual hunters to shoot and kill more than 1,000 wolves using aircraft in the past six years.

Miller, a longtime leader in Congress on conservation, environmental, and natural resources and former chair of the House Natural Resources committee, released the following statement after introducing the legislation:

“The state of Alaska has been operating an airborne hunting program that has blatantly ignored federal law, ignored Alaskans’ opposition, ignored the science, and ignored even their own wildlife experts. It’s time to ground this air assault on wolves. The PAW Act is urgently needed to close the loophole in federal law and protect our nation’s wildlife from the unethical and unsportsmanlike practice of airborne hunting.”

In 1971, as a response to public outcry over airborne wolf hunting, Congress passed the Airborne Hunting Act to prohibit shooting or harassing animals from aircraft. For the last several years, however, individual hunters in Alaska have been granted permits to shoot hundreds of wolves from aircraft under the guise of wildlife management, but without any credible scientific justification for the need to remove predators to protect prey — in clear violation of the intent of the federal ban.

The PAW Act makes it clear that Alaska’s activities are a violation of federal law and that states can use aircraft for legitimate animal control purposes in circumstances where land, livestock, water, pets, crops, or human health are at risk.

The PAW Act was introduced by Miller along with 105 bipartisan cosponsors. Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced identical legislation Wednesday in the Senate. The legislation has already received the official support of nine former members of Alaska’s Board of Game and wildlife conservation groups, including Defenders of Wildlife.

More on this from Defenders of Wildlife:

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