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Idaho lawmakers’ ESA amendment repeats provisions already in the law…

Here's something odd: I've been hunting for the existing language in the Endangered Species Act that would be modified by the new legislation introduced today by three members of Idaho's congressional delegation, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, to clarify that people can shoot grizzly bears in self-defense. It turns out that practically identical language already exists in the very next section of the ESA that follows the one the Idaho lawmakers would amend.

Their bill says, “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.” This language, under the bill, would be tacked on to the end of Section 10 of 16 USC 1539.

In the existing law, in 16 USC 1540, there are two clauses, one about civil penalties, and one about criminal violations. They say: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no civil penalty shall be imposed if it can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed an act 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.” And: “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.”

I queried University of Idaho law professor Dale Gobel, an expert on the Endangered Species Act, to find the existing language in the law. “It's in the statute,” he said, noting of the bill with a chuckle, “It seems redundant, but other than that, why not?”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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