WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- The senior member of Alaska's congressional delegation has once again drawn the ire of colleagues and constituents by offering yet more controversial remarks -- this time over the government's protective status of the gray wolf.
During a testy discussion on Capitol Hill Thursday with U.S. Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell, the Washington Post reported, Rep. Don Young mocked lawmakers for continually supporting the wolf's status as an endangered animal -- even though, he said, many of them haven't a single gray wolf in their district.
The Alaska Republican, who supports removing the animal from the endangered species list, left little doubt about his feeling toward those who advocate its protection.
"[Lawmakers thumb their nose] to the state of Alaska, to the Alaskan people... and we have got 79 congressmen sending you a letter [when they] haven't got a damn wolf in their whole district."
Then came the spark that set off the powder keg.
"I'd like to introduce them in your district. If I introduced them in your district, you wouldn't have a homeless problem anymore," he said, inferring that the predatory animal might systematically pick off all residents of skid row.
Young was referring to the 79 lawmakers who recently authored a letter asking for the animal's continued federal protection. The exchange came during a budget meeting Thursday of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which he chaired between 1995 and 2001.
The entire episode lasted just a few minutes, but it immediately caught fire among those in Congress and the public. A short time later, faced yet again with having to dial down a controversy, Rep. Young sought to clarify his comments.
"The analogy I made today was intended to be hyperbolic, in order to stress the point that wolves are a serious problem for communities who deal with them," he said. "Anyone who's dealt with a healthy, roaming wolf population, as we have in Alaska, understands that these predators have a detrimental impact on wildlife populations.
"If you misunderstood my comments, just imagine the impact a healthy wolf population would have on your own town, community, or congressional district. It would wreak havoc and place anything in their reach in great jeopardy."
It is legal to hunt wolves in Alaska, and Young feels that keeping the animal's population under control lends to a safer environment for his constituents -- a concept he believes his colleagues in Congress just don't understand.
"That's the problem with your department," he told Jewell in an animated fashion. "You have a bunch of people within these agencies making decisions without consultation with you or consultation with the state [of Alaska] or the native groups, which they are told to do under the law."
Young is the most senior Republican in the House of Representatives and the fourth longest-serving House member, having served Alaska's at-large district since 1973. And in more than four decades on Capitol Hill, Thursday was hardly the first time Young has found himself defending remarks perceived as insensitive.
In 2013, he offended some in the Hispanic community when during an interview he referred to them as "wetbacks." In October, he claimed the federal government's assistance of low income citizens greatly contributed to his state's suicide rate. And in 2006, he became embroiled in a federal corruption investigation involving an Alaskan oil company.
Just this week, Young expressed his displeasure with the government's current attempt to outlaw the sale of armor-piercing 5.56mm ammunition -- saying the proposal is in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution's second amendment.
"The Obama Administration's actions to dramatically change the interpretation of the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986 will ban one of the most commonly sold rifle bullets in the nation and significantly interfere with the Second Amendment rights of countless Americans," he said. "I remain committed to working with my colleagues in the House to ensure the voices of law-abiding gun owners are heard on this and similar matters."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it is proposing the ban because the bullets, which are now available for use in handguns, are now a greater threat to law enforcement officers.