Statement by Senator Lautenberg on S. 263, the Bear Protection Act

As a cosponsor of S. 263, the Bear Protection Act, I would like to reiterate my support for this important legislation that would provide the domestic bear population with needed protection before they are destroyed by commercial trade.

Numerous studies on the bear parts trade have concluded that, as a result of the continuing decline of Asian bear populations, trade in the gallbladders of North American bears species for medicinal use is on the rise. This fact is confirmed by wildlife enforcement officials who note that poaching of North American black bears is increasing, largely as a result of growing demand for bear gallbladders. In my home state, wildlife officials have found the carcasses of black bears with their gallbladders and paws removed. Several years ago, Pennsylvania conservation officers working undercover and in cooperation with New Jersey law enforcement officers were able to purchase numerous gallbladders brought into the state by Pennsylvanians intent on selling them in New Jersey.

Trade in black bears and their parts is already known to occur throughout the species' range. According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC North America, wildlife agencies in the United States and Canada indicate that there already exist a well-developed market for the parts of the American black bear, and evidence of well˙2Ddeveloped networks of hunters, middlemen and retailers, only suggest that the trade is likely to continue and expand in the future. I believe that the Bear Protection Act would give state and federal law enforcement agencies a much needed tool to deter further illegal commercialization of black bear products, while not interfering with states' right to manage their resident bear populations as they see fit. I strongly support the bill and urge my colleagues to report it out of committee.