The second session of the 114th Congress opened in January. On the 20th of the month, despite strong minority opposition and contentious debate, the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works approved the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act” (S 659). This is the second half of a bill to dismantle wildlife protections. The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved the other half, dubbed merely the “Sportsmen’s Act” (S 556), last November, after a provision to expand trapping on public land was removed. S 659 was made worse by language inserted by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) that would remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes states.
At the mark-up for S 659, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) again described the inherent cruelty of body-gripping traps, outlining the urgent need to restrict the use of such cruel and indiscriminate traps within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). He had earlier met with the committee’s chairman, James Inhofe (R-OK), to discuss the issue, and Chairman Inhofe even filed an amendment addressing the need for more oversight and transparency concerning the use of body-gripping traps within the NWRS (with particular concern for nontarget injuries). However, as partisan bickering over the bill escalated, the amendment was withdrawn.