The battle over how to deal with sea lions in the Columbia River is headed to Capitol Hill. Rob Manning reports on the latest effort by Northwest representatives to save salmon – from sea lions.
The bill introduced this week by Washington’s Republican Congressman Doc Hastings is meant to make it easier to kill or capture problem sea lions.
It would create what supporters call a “streamlined” process to remove problem animals. Critics call it an exemption to federal environmental law.
It would also expand the list of those who could kill sea lions.
Sara Thompson is with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Sara Thompson: “It provides a key amendment that would provide the Warm Springs, Yakama, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes the same authority to lethally remove California sea lions that is currently held by the states.”
The bill can expect opposition from the Humane Society of the United States. Sharon Young is the organization’s marine mammal official.
Sharon Young: “We’re concerned about attempts to scapegoat natural predators for impact on wildlife that are largely the result of human actions.”
Young’s organization sued over the previous sea lion removal policy, and won in the federal appeals’ court.
Representative Hastings first tried to pass this bill in 2006. Hastings’ policy advisor, Todd Ungerecht says sea lion policies haven’t done the job.
Todd Ungerecht: “At a time when we’re spending a great deal of resources to protect salmon, the congressman feels that we have to do all that we can to control these sea lions, that are growing in number, and obviously are unmanageable under the current law.”
Hastings chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. That’s likely to be the bill’s first stop.