2:58 PM EDT
Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd

Mr. SIMPSON. The manager's amendment before us makes several technical and conforming changes to the bill. These are all noncontroversial changes, and they have been shared with the minority. I believe the minority is supportive of the amendment, and I urge its adoption.

I yield back the balance of my time.

The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Idaho (Mr. Simpson).

The amendment was agreed to.

2:59 PM EDT
William Lacy Clay Jr., D-MO 1st

Mr. CLAY. I rise for the purpose of entering into a colloquy with the distinguished chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.

I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Moran, for your leadership and for this opportunity to discuss an important and urgent matter.

As the chairman knows, there are two acts that seek to conserve marine mammals--the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. I am not here to debate the merits of those acts but to discuss an inadvertent and unexpected consequence of them.

[Time: 15:00]

There is what seems to be a contradiction when it comes to the protection of polar bears. Exactly the opposite may be happening.

2:59 PM EDT
William Lacy Clay Jr., D-MO 1st

Mr. CLAY. I rise for the purpose of entering into a colloquy with the distinguished chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.

I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Moran, for your leadership and for this opportunity to discuss an important and urgent matter.

As the chairman knows, there are two acts that seek to conserve marine mammals--the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. I am not here to debate the merits of those acts but to discuss an inadvertent and unexpected consequence of them.

[Time: 15:00]

There is what seems to be a contradiction when it comes to the protection of polar bears. Exactly the opposite may be happening.

3:00 PM EDT
William Lacy Clay Jr., D-MO 1st

Mr. CLAY. Mr. Chairman, you are correct. This is an urgent issue, as we know, of polar bears, specific bears today that are in danger of being lost and which could be saved by importation into the United States. While it was the intent of Congress to protect these animals, the acts were never intended to be bureaucratic obstacles to common sense and to saving their lives.

Some brief background is in order. Mr. Chairman, section 101 of the Marine Mammals Protection Act established a moratorium on the importation of marine mammals. However, section 102 and 104 of the act allow for the issuance of permits for the importation of marine mammals under certain circumstances.

Now, the act generally prohibits permits from public display of marine mammals from a species of stock designated as depleted, which is defined as one that is listed as an endangered species or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

On May 15, 2008, the Secretary of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act; and since then, no permits for the importation of polar bears for the health and welfare of the animals or for the purposes of public display have been issued by the Secretary. The act does require that conservation plans for taking animals include proposals to enhance their habitat which, in this case, is impossible.

One of the main reasons the polar bear was listed as threatened is the loss of their habitat. It is not possible to comply with this requirement, and we urge the Secretary to take this into consideration when making a final determination on these permits.

There is also a requirement that such takings be for scientific purposes. Mr. Chairman, I think you would agree that establishing successful captive breeding programs for a threatened species fits into the Congress's intent for scientific purposes. Declining habitat conditions for the polar bear and an increasing number of human-bear interaction have resulted in an increase in the number of polar bears brought into temporary or permanent captivity in Canada in recent years, including an increase

in the number of non-releasable animals and orphaned cubs.

Canadian institutions cannot house all of these bears and any animals not placed in suitable facilities could be used, euthanized or left to die in the wild.

The Government of Manitoba, Canada, has passed legislation allowing such bears to be exported from

Canada for purposes of captive maintenance and public display at accredited zoological institutions in the United States. These are institutions that have undergone a thorough and rigorous review and inspection process by zoological professionals to examine all aspects of an institution's operation.

Prior to issuing those permits, the Secretary of the Interior should determine the institution is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and meets specific public display criteria as determined by the Secretary.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to clarify that it is your understanding that under these acts, the Secretary of the Interior may issue permits for the importation into the U.S. of live polar bears for the purpose of public display at appropriate accredited zoological institutions. Upon a finding that such importation of such will benefit the health and welfare of the animal or is otherwise consistent with the conservation of the polar bears, in addition with the other areas, the Secretary's authority

is granted under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, section 102(b) and 104(c)(4)(A).

Again, I want to thank the chairman for this opportunity.

The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.

(On request of Mr. Dicks, and by unanimous consent, Mr. Clay was allowed to proceed for 3 additional minutes.)

3:04 PM EDT
Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd

Mr. SIMPSON. I agree with the gentleman from Missouri, and I want to be clear. I hope the Secretary of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service hear us clearly when we say that it is the sense of the committee that under these acts the Secretary of the Interior may issue permits for the importation into the United States of live polar bears for the purposes of public display at appropriate accredited zoological institutions upon a finding that such importation will benefit the health and

welfare of the animal or is otherwise consistent with the conservation of the polar bear.

I thank the gentleman for raising the matter and for working with me on this important issue.