The Stevens legislation will amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act by adding provisions to create a bi-national U.S. and Russian Polar Bear Commission.
This commission will be authorized to determine annual take limits and the adoption of other measures to restrict the taking of polar bears for subsistence purposes. The Commission will also identify polar bear habitats and “develop recommendations for habitat conservation measures.” Additionally, it prohibits the possession, import, export, transport, sale, receipt, acquisition, or purchase of any polar bear (or any part or product thereof) that is taken in violation of the Treaty.
The bill authorizes $3 million for the Secretary of the Interior, $500,000 for the Polar Bear Commission, and $500,000 for the Alaskan Cooperative Management Program to oversee conservation management and subsistence harvests in Alaska. These amounts are authorized annually for each of fiscal years 2006 through 2010.
“This bill will simultaneously support the conservation of U.S. and Russian polar bear populations and the historical traditions of indigenous peoples in the arctic region,” said Stevens. “It is necessary to establish the needed regulatory and management entities in both the U.S. and Russia. The shared population of polar bears that migrate between our two nations deserve the added protections and conservation this bill will provide.”
The U.S.-Russian Polar Bear Treaty was completed and signed by both countries on October 16, 2000. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Treaty in June of 2003, and reported it out favorably on July 23, 2003. The full Senate agreed to the resolution of advice and consent on the Treaty on July 31, 2003. The Russian Federation has indicated that once the U.S. ratifies the treaty, it will promptly do the same.