Senate readies vote on hunting bill

WASHINGTON — Legislation poised to pass the Senate would allow a small group of hunters who have been storing polar bear pelts in Canada to import them to the United States.

The bill, which is described as one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation for sportsmen in a generation, will be among the first to be passed by the Senate in the days following the election. The Senate voted 92-5 Tuesday to move the bill forward to a full vote later this week.

The legislation was also the first bill from Congress to get a post-election nod from President Barack Obama. The White House said Tuesday in a statement of administration policy that it “looks forward to continuing to work with the Congress and with the American people to advance a community-based conservation agenda.”

The legislation is wildly popular in his state, said Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who narrowly won re-election over Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, the state’s sole congressional representative.

Tester’s office is careful to differentiate his bill from one Rehberg championed. The Rehberg bill did allow some hunting on national parks; Tester’s does not. It does, however, allow bow hunters to use national parks to access areas where bow hunting is allowed.

Among the bill’s more obscure provisions: Allowing 41 hunters who killed polar bears in Canada before 2008 to import their pelts to this country. Since polar bears were listed in 2008 as threatened, Americans haven’t been able to import polar bear trophies. The bill keeps in place the existing ban, which doesn’t allow any new pelts to be imported.

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