Trump Team Blocks Criticism of Bill Allowing Hunters to Massacre Bear Cubs

All bears must die. Photo: Getty Images

The Trump administration inherited a nation with a host of profound policy problems, among them, a rapidly warming climate; a health-care system that leaves millions without access to basic care; an economy that produces little innovation and a lot of inequality; and tyrannical regulations that make it illegal for hunters to massacre baby bears, during their denning season, at Alaskan wildlife preserves.

No White House could tackle all these challenges at once. And so, President Trump has had his staff concentrate on what’s most important.

“Expanding access to national parks and public lands for hunting, fishing, and recreation is and remains a top priority of this administration,” Heather Swift, an Interior Department spokeswoman, told McClatchy on Wednesday.

This isn’t just rhetoric: This administration has treated the suppression of Americans’ god-given right to pump bear cubs full of lead, in their dens, at wildlife preserves, in Alaska, as the national crisis that it is. To ensure that the “Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement act” finds its way into law, the White House has even prohibited the National Park Service (NPS) from sharing its concerns about the legislation with Congress. Or so McClatchy reports:

National Park Service Acting Director Michael Reynolds prepared a June 30 memo detailing his agency’s objections to the draft legislation … Under the bill, the National Park Service would be prevented from regulating the hunting of bears and wolves in Alaska wildlife preserves, including the practice of killing bear cubs in their dens. It also would be prevented from regulating commercial and recreational fishing within park boundaries and from commenting on development projects outside park boundaries that could affect the parks.

Reynolds objected to these and other parts of the bill in a memo sent to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Legislative Counsel. The park service later received a response from Interior, with sections of Reynolds’ concerns crossed out, next to the initials “C.H.”

Agency officials were told they could not repeat their concerns to Congress, according to Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, who obtained the memo and provided a copy to McClatchy.

… Ruch said it was his understanding that the “C.H.” stands for Casey Hammond — an Interior political appointee and former House Natural Resources Committee staffer — but that could not be verified.

Swift, for her part, insisted that the Interior Department never told the NPS “not to communicate with Congress.”

Regardless, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Interior to reject proposed comments from NPS. And given the stakes of this issue, it’s hard to fault the administration for trying to silence dissent — in addition to its provisions concerning bear cubs, the SHARE Act would also allow hunters to kill baby wolves and coyotes during their denning seasons. The NPS memo objects to these measures, noting that wolf and coyote pups’ pelts have “little trophy, economic or subsistence value.” But as the National Rifle Association explains, the only people who would prohibit the killing of coyote puppies on these grounds are “animal rights extremists.”

This isn’t the first time that the Trump administration has strong-armed the National Park Service, in response to a national emergency: In January, the president reportedly called on NPS director Reynolds to release more aerial photographs of his inauguration, so as to reassure the American people that the “fake news” had been wrong — and that Trump’s swearing-in had actually attracted a larger crowd than Obama’s.

Trump Team: Letting Hunters Kill Bear Cubs Is Top Priority