Sportsmen Beware!

A newly formed congressional caucus comprised of those who generally share the views and agenda held by the country's most outspoken and politically active anti-hunting organization has yet to make any serious legislative inroads on Capitol Hill, but deserves the continued watchful eye of sportsmen.

There was relatively little fanfare surrounding the formation of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus earlier this year, but it attracted the attention of many in the hunting and wildlife conservation community, not as much because of its name, but because of its primary ally.

Sportsmen's groups are acutely aware that the Washington, DC-based Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the most politically entrenched and fiscally powerful anti-hunting organization currently in operation. The animal-rights behemoth has helped finance the anti-hunting side of literally every hunting-related ballot initiative effort for the past two decades; on subjects ranging from dove-hunting in Ohio and spring bear hunting in Colorado, to lion hunting with hounds in Washington and trapping in Arizona.

So, when the leaders of the HSUS roundly hailed the formation of a congressional caucus whose main agenda includes "animal welfare issues," it sent up bright red warning flags to hunters and wildlife managers across the country.

Chaired by Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Elton Gallegly (R-CA), CAPC purports to raise awareness of animal welfare issues in Congress and attempt to build coalitions in support of "common sense, humane animal welfare laws."

On his Web site, Rep. Gallegly is identified as a champion of animal rights. Rep. Moran's biography notes his "near-perfect ratings from the League of Conservation Voters and other similar scores from organizations committed to animal protection (and) gun control."

Just weeks ago, caucus member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), an outspoken critic of trapping as a wildlife management tool, introduced her second anti-trapping bill in the past three years. Lowey's HR 3710, the "Refuge From Cruel Trapping Act," would make it illegal to use any trap that will "kill or capture wildlife by physically restraining any part of the animal" within the National Wildlife Refuge System. More than half of the bill's 39 current co-sponsors are members of the CAPC.