Young argued, "I'm a conservationist, but not a stupid one. And this has nothing to do with future killing of polar bears or anything else."
"There's no real conservation value — these are dead bears," a Young staffer said.
In an era in which the earmark has been so heavily derided, legislation affecting just a few dozen American hunters, being pushed by a cadre of members from Western states where big-game hunting is king, does stand out.
But Young argues the issue is a national one. Those 41 hunters are spread out across the country, not just in his home state of Alaska. "I have one case of an Iraqi War veteran — dreamed about killing a polar bear, went up there, had his polar bear hunt. Now he can't have his polar bear trophy," Young said.
"If there were one [hunter] it'd be the right thing," Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, agreed.
In fact, Young's focus is broader. He hopes to some day allow all American hunters to import trophies from Canada, and eventually to return to hunting polar bears within the U.S. borders as well. "I hope to get the polar bear off the threatened species list, because it is not. And why they did this, I don't know," he said.
Young said he spoke with a member of the Canadian Parliament on Monday about polar bear populations in the country, arguing that the situation isn't as dire as some conservationists would have Americans believe. "Polar bears are really growing in numbers, contrary to what people say," he said.
The World Wildlife Fund agrees that, as of 2013, "most polar bear populations have returned to healthy numbers," but warns that five of the 19 polar bear populations it has designated remain in decline. The group estimates that 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears live throughout the world today.
"Every country in the world allows them to be brought into their country except the United States and Mexico. The only reason that is, is that there are a lot of bleeding hearts up there," said an employee at Canada North Outfitting, a Montreal-based business that organizes hunting trips for polar bears and other arctic wildlife.
The employee, who declined to be identified, said that Americans continue to travel up to Canada to hunt the bears, where it is legal. U.S. hunters can then transport their trophies to other countries or "leave them with friends or family or business acquaintances in Canada until the one day when someone in the U.S. comes to their senses," the employee said.
To be clear, Young took down his bear in Alaska in 1964, before hunting the animals was illegal in the United States. "They're big. They're scary," he said.