On May 8, Porthill, Idaho resident Jeremy Hill shot and killed a grizzly. Hill defended his actions, claiming he shot the bear when it and two others went after one of his children's pigs. That defense didn't stop the U.S. Attorney for Idaho from charging him with shooting a threatened species—a criminal count that carries up to one year in prison and a $50,000 fine. Officials in Idaho quickly leapt to Hill's defense. Representatives from Idaho Fish and Game said they found no evidence of a crime at the scene, and Governor Butch Otter wrote a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar this month convincing him to drop the charges against Hill.
The political saga of Hill's dead bear didn't end there, however.
Yesterday, Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and and Jim Risch and Representative Raul Labrador proposed an amendment to the Endangered Species Act excusing from criminal charges anyone who shoots a grizzly in self defense or defense of another person. They pointed to Hill's incident as an example of the necessity for such an amendment, and touted the move as "a drastic improvement over the current ESA regulations."
The three congressmen were apparently unaware, however, that the ESA already includes language nearly identical to that which they've proposed. Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Russell promptly highlighted the redundancy:
The law already contains a self-defense provision in the very next section after the one the new bill would amend. A spokesman for Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said the bill would “bolster” that provision, but a national conservation group called it “political grandstanding.”
Derek Goldman, field representative for the Endangered Species Coalition in Missoula, released a statement in response to the apparent oversight on the part of three-quarters of Idaho's congressional delegation. "The Jeremy Hill case was a single, rare and unfortunate incident that some politicians are apparently using as an excuse to undermine common-sense protections for wildlife and habitat," Goldman says. "Every year people kill dozens of grizzly bears in self-defense and virtually none of them are ever prosecuted. Yet, you never hear those politicians talking about how well the Endangered Species Acts works in those cases."