U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly lifts ban
On March 1, 2018 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a memo lifting the ban on importing sport-hunted trophies of elephants from certain African countries, just three months after Trump appeared to pause a first attempt to do so amid public outrage. In the memo, USFWS said that in place of the Obama-era blanket ban, the agency will consider importation permits “on a case-by-case basis.”
The memo however, did not clarify the specific guidelines by which the permits would be issued. It is also not clear what role Trump played in the decision; he’s publicly expressed his opposition to rolling back the ban several times.
In November 2017, one day after the USFWS announcement it lifted the ban, Trump said he put that move “on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts.” Two days later, he tweeted that he “will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”
In the recent memo, USFWS directly citing a court ruling stated it was withdrawing several previous Endangered Species Act findings dating back to 1995. They “are no longer effective for making individual permit determinations for imports of those sport-hunted ESA-listed species;” including not only elephants from a number of African countries but also lions and bonteboks from South Africa.
USFWS added that it would still use some of the information included in those findings, whenever relevant to the evaluation of an individual permit application.
Meanwhile, the newly established International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC) created by the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will hold its first meeting of the minds on March 16, 2018.
Last year, the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (WHHCC), whose members served to advise the Interior and Agriculture secretaries, temporarily reconvened last fall. The members were told that the WHHCC would be disbanded in December 2017.
Included in the Federal Register meeting notice for the new IWCC, USFWS notes: “The Council provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior regarding the benefits that result from United States citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting.”
Members of the IWCC include individuals from the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, U.S. hunters actively engaged in international and domestic hunting, tourism, outfitting, and guide industries, archery and the hunting sports industry.
According to the Department of the Interior, the new council will address issues including the recommendation to remove barriers on the importation of legally hunted wildlife; review the
Endangered Species Act’s foreign listed species; and ways to streamline import permits.
Yet there is some skepticism among House Democrats who formally wrote to Zinke in January urging him to abandon what they dismissed as a “misguided idea.” “Trophy hunting is unethical, unpopular and of questionable conservation value in many cases,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter led by House Representative Don Beyer, Virginia and Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva. “Further, this council is a poor use of taxpayer dollars.”
The council is expected to convene twice a year.
Endangered Species Act
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