It's understandable why foes of U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., would make sport of the congressman's measure in the disaster relief bill to allow a campaign donor to bring home a polar bear trophy he shot in Canada four years ago.
Yet there's more to this story than Norwood doing a personal favor for one contributor. He is responding to many sports enthusiasts here and across the country.
Norwood's provision was not arbitrarily inserted. It came on the heels of hearings held on the Marine Mammal Protection Act in April by the House Natural Resources Committee Ä and it had strong bipartisan support.
The hearings revealed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may be playing it too safe by not allowing polar bear trophies into the U.S. that were killed before the 1994 act took effect.
Yet this is what prompted the Sierra Club Savannah River Group to come down hard on Norwood's "priorities."
"He should be spending his time fighting to provide more children health-care coverage and protecting our wildlife here at home, rather than fighting to bring dead polar bears into this country from Canada," huffed a Sierra spokeswoman in a purely political shot.
There's no evidence Norwood neglected his other congressional duties to push the sportsmen's measure.
Sierra should direct its fire to the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is not known for being soft on protecting species or the environment. The agency is urging Congress to amend the Mammal Protection Act to allow American sportsmen to import polar bears that are legally slain with a Canadian permit so long as they pay the $1,000 import fee.
Moreover, in a final twist of irony, Norwood actually ended up voting against the disaster relief bill to which his polar bear legislation was attached, while President Clinton signed it. Where's the Sierra Club criticism of the president?
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