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Bear poaching bust a good start, but Alaska can do even better

Letter to the Editor

Published 03/09/05
By Adam M. Roberts, Senior Vice President
Source: Anchorage Daily News, March 2005

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors deserve praise for sentencing Kwan Su Yi for bear poaching ("Anchorage man sentenced in bear poaching case," March 2, 2005). Illegal killing of bears for the underground trade in their parts is a nationwide problem, which demands a strong national outcry.

To its credit, Alaska prohibits trade in bear parts. The federal Lacey Act prohibits trade in illegally acquired wildlife. Often, the problem is that the origin of gallbladders is unknown, thus, proof that animals were killed illegally is difficult to attain. This creates an enforcement loophole where bears can be killed illegally in a state such as Alaska, the gallbladders smuggled to Idaho or one of the few states that still allows trade, and they can then be sold — fraudulently — as legal bear parts, circumventing Alaska's wise prohibition against illegal wildlife commercialization.

Federal legislation, the Bear Protection Act, was introduced in previous congresses to prohibit trade in bear viscera, without affecting a state's right to allow a legal bear sport hunting season. This wise legislation, passed twice in the Senate, would deter bear poachers and profiteers, while facilitating state law enforcement. Indefensibly, congressman Don Young has opposed the bill, even though it merely reinforces existing Alaska law. Bear carcasses should not unceremoniously litter America's forests. Congressman Young and all Alaskans should support an end to the bear parts trade.

Adam M. Roberts, Vice President
Born Free USA
Washington, D.C.

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