Last week, southern sea otter conservation dodged a bullet as House Bill H.R. 4043 was not included as an amendment to H.R. 4310 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 in the Armed Services Committee Hearing. This is very good news! If H.R. 4043 appeared in the National Defense Bill, it would have been a significant challenge to ensure the fisheries protectionist language is removed once the Bill reaches the Senate.
As the saying goes, “we may have won the battle, but the war is not over yet.” This week H.R. 4043 will be marked up (edited) in the Full House Natural Resources Committee. The Democratic minority members are at the ready to have the fisheries language removed due to concerns over using the cover of “military readiness to further the goals of a special interest.”
If the ecosystem management plan language is cut out of the bill and no other fisheries protectionist language is added in, then we can look forward to the USFWS decision on the fate of the translocation program and the “no-otter” management zone in December of this year.
If the Bill remains unchanged or undesired amended language added in, then the Bill can either be proposed again as an amendment to the Defense Bill, where we may have another opportunity to cut out any fisheries protection language in committee, or it can be considered for a vote on the House floor on its own merits. It will most likely be an amendment to the Defense Bill as it will fail if it goes to the House as a stand-alone bill.
To ensure that sea otters have a fighting chance to reclaim their historical home range, we are following H.R.4043 very closely.
Stay tuned for more updates as we may need your help to oppose H.R. 4043.