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Stern targets future pandemics with wildlife-trafficking bill

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Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, joined lawmakers from Oregon, Washington, New York and New Hampshire Wednesday to discuss policies to prevent future pandemics caused by wildlife diseases. 

During the livestreamed online discussion hosted by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, Stern talked about his most recent legislative effort to address wildlife trafficking in California and the country. 

“(Senate Bill 376) would require anyone importing or exporting wildlife, broadly defined, to ensure that there is no known risk of readily transmissible zoonotic disease from that species for which there is no known cure,” said Stern, who chairs the state Senate’s committee on natural resources and water. 

The bill also gives the state more authority to regulate and enforce wildlife trafficking laws at California’s borders. 

“We’re incredibly porous at our ports and our ports of entry. We have incredibly limited enforcement authority,” Stern said of existing conditions. “We simply don’t have the rangers and the other wildlife law enforcement personnel to get this done.” 

“The amount of wildlife trafficking, that’s occurring both interstate and internationally in California, by our initial estimates, dwarfs most nations all over the world,” Stern said of the issue. “This is big business.” 

Stern’s bill would also prohibit the sale of invasive, nonnative and endangered species at live animal markets. 

“There have been undercover investigations conducted and other sting operations that have revealed quite a substantial black market in this economy,” he said. 

Stern hopes that the collective efforts of the environmentally minded legislators across the country will “shine the national spotlight” on an issue that he said has “consequences from a public health perspective” and poses a “national security threat.” 

“We’re hoping to get in a few of these different problems at once,” said Stern. 

Stern’s bill is scheduled to be heard by the committee he chairs April 13. 

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