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For Immediate Release, September 14, 2011

Contact: Marty Bergoffen, (520) 609-9815

Idaho Congressional Delegation Proposes Baffling Amendment to Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON— Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho introduced a bill today to amend the Endangered Species Act to exempt from prosecution those who kill or harm protected species in defense of themselves, family or other people. However, the Act already has an identical exemption that is very broad.

“Even for the dysfunctional atmosphere that permeates Washington, this bill is coming out of left field. The Endangered Species Act already includes a self-defense provision like the one the Idaho delegation introduced today. Adding this superfluous language amounts to political theatre rather than thoughtful legislating,” said Marty Bergoffen, endangered species organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “If they want to be sure that the Act allows for self-defense, we’d be happy to send them a copy of the Endangered Species Act so they can see for themselves.”

The proposed amendment comes on the heels of the prosecution of Jeremy Hill, who killed a grizzly bear on his property in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho. He said the bear was threatening his wife and children, but prosecutors said his final killing shot occurred after his family was safely inside their home. Charges against Hill were recently dropped and Hill agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.

The Endangered Species Act provides has provided an exemption for self-defense or defense of others since 1978. Section 11(b)(3) of the Act states:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, it shall be a defense to prosecution under this subsection if the defendant committed the offense based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual, from bodily harm from any endangered or threatened species.”

That language is nearly identical to the language proposed today by Idaho’s congressmen:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law (including regulations), the provisions of this Act shall not apply with respect to the taking of any grizzly bear by an individual who demonstrates to the Secretary by a preponderance of the evidence that the individual carried out the taking as a result of: 1 - self defense; 2 - defense of another individual; or 3 - a reasonable belief of imminent danger posed by the grizzly bear to any individual.”

“There’s no reason to add utterly redundant language to the Endangered Species Act,” Bergoffen said. “The Idaho delegation ought to quit grandstanding — it’s pretty clear that Congress has more pressing issues to pursue rather than spinning their wheels on a bill that will have no legal effect.”

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