An important bill was recently passed by the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives, but it wasn’t mentioned in local media and just barely nationwide, and yet it affects an important natural resource and it’s a prime example of what happens when majority rule is replaced by a vocal and persistent minority.

A previous version of the bill was known (when it’s known outside the beltway at all) as HR 2406, the “Sportsman’s Heritage Recreational Enhancement Act of 2015.” It died in a previous Congress, but (wonder of wonders) it’s still alive and kicking under a slightly different name. The current bill (passed on Sept. 13, 2017) is known as HR 3668, the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2017” or “SHARE Act.”

Sounds pretty mild and very positive, doesn’t it? After all, who could be opposed to sportsmen, or heritage, not to mention recreation? And let’s not forget the positive connotation of enhancement. Anything that’s enhanced is made better, though we might ask better for whom? The ultimate euphemism, of course, in the bill’s title is its acronym SHARE. Kudos to the devious wordsmith who coined that one. After all, could anyone think sharing wasn’t a good thing?

Some folks might be kindly disposed toward this legislation based on its appealing title until what it proposes is examined a bit closer. The bill’s supporters – including the NRA and Safari Club International – want to take away Endangered Species Act protection from wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes region, and bar judicial review of these actions.

SHARE would allow unusually cruel and unsporting hunting methods, such as killing black bear mothers and cubs while they’re hibernating, on National Park Service lands in Alaska, and open up millions of acres of federal public lands to the use of steel-jawed leg hold traps and other body-gripping traps, which are inherently cruel and indiscriminate.

Not satisfied with all these extreme proposals, SHARE also wants to allow silencers on weapons for hunting, thereby creating an open invitation to poaching on federal land and creating a safety hazard for fellow humans who are enjoying other forms of recreation, and may not be able to dodge a bullet that they don’t hear.

But that’s not all.

As Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity has stated, “SHARE creates a dangerous loophole that allows trophy-hunted polar bears to be imported. Two-thirds of polar bears are expected to be wiped out by 2050 due to climate change, and the species is predicted to near extinction by the end of the century.

“Another provision would permanently exempt lead fishing tackle from any regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife at almost all levels. Animals are poisoned when they eat lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit; some die a painful, rapid death from lead poisoning, while others suffer for years from its slowly debilitating effects.

“There is no safe level of lead in the environment. This provision will result in more poisoned wildlife. We phased lead out of waterfowl ammunition, paint, gasoline and toys. It’s time for Congress to stop catering to industry and start looking out for the health of the American people and our wildlife.”

What can we do to oppose this misguided and destructive legislation, of which only a few examples have been cited here? We can use the option always available to us – we can contact our representative in Washington, express our opinion, and say that we do not support SHARE because it undermines critical protection for animals and allows extreme and inhumane hunting methods on National Park Service and Federal lands. We should do that now since the House could vote on this onerous bill at any time.

All it takes is a simple phone call to Rep. Chellie Pingree at 202-205-6116. All it takes is the time to exercise your right and your privilege as a citizen whose voice – perhaps as part of a chorus – can make a very important difference.

Don Loprieno

Bristol