Election Upheaval Likely to Give
by Don Jenkins
A lame-duck Congress made even weaker by a lame-duck majority may stall an urgent push by two congressmen to thin the California sea lion population that gathers at Bonneville Dam to eat wild salmon.
Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, said last week he still hopes the House Resources Committee will act before the end of the year on legislation he and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, introduced to allow the killing of up to 80 federally protected sea lions a year.
But the congressmen counted on the support of Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif. Voters ousted Pombo, who would have lost the chairman's position anyway with Democrats winning control of the House.
The House will convene Dec. 5 with lame-duck GOP leadership and appropriations bills still to pass. Meanwhile, defeated Republican congressmen and their staffs will be cleaning out offices and moving on before Christmas.
"What all that means in terms of willingness or ability to move other bills is up in the air," Baird said.
Baird and Hastings say it's urgent H.R. 6241 passes before sea lions have another chance to take a toll on spring runs of endangered salmon. "Ordinarily, I'm a big advocate of going slow on legislation. The problem here is there's a consequence to acting slowly," Baird said.
When the new and Democratic-controlled Congress convenes in January, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., likely will lead the Resources Committee. "He's a reasonable guy," Baird said. "But anytime there's talk of taking a species, people say, 'Oh, I don't like the sound of that.' So you have a lot of education to do."
California sea lions are not a threatened or an endangered species, but they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Washington and Oregon wildlife officials say the sea lions have been gathering in growing numbers at Bonneville Dam and eat more than 3 percent of the spring salmon passing the dam, damaging efforts to save the runs from extinction.
Scaring away sea lions with noise, motion and percussion hasn't worked to the satisfaction of state officials. Sports fishermen groups and Indian tribes support resorting to lethal means to remove the worst predators.
The Humane Society of the United States argues sea lions are being made the scapegoats for failed salmon-recovery efforts. Killing sea lions won't address lost habitat and poor water quality, according to the Humane Society.
Congressmen say Sea Lion Hunt Necessary by William McCall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/16/6
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