In early November 2017 —the same week the Trump administration announced its disastrous decision to allow Elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia—the administration decided to create an advisory committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), to advise Trump on how to enhance trophy hunters’ ability to hunt internationally.
The new U.S. advisory board created to help rewrite federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African Elephants, Lions and Rhinos is stacked with trophy hunters, including some members with direct ties to President Trump and his family.
A review by The Associated Press of the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 board members appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke indicates they will agree with his position that the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them.
That means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperilled species, like Elephants and Lions, for sport. The council’s mandate includes counselling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn’t want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.
The committee’s duties are similarly biased. They include “educating” the public about trophy hunting; ensuring federal programs support hunting; making it easier for U.S. citizens to import trophies; ending trophy import bans and suspensions (despite the fact our country heavily favours them, as shown recently), and using the pretext of “regulatory duplications” to eviscerate protections for foreign species under both the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (even though the U.S. law and the global treaty do different things).
Many conservation groups—including NRDC, World Wildlife Fund, Humane Society, Center for Biological Diversity, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare—urged the administration to abandon this dangerous proposal. Many also urged the council to, at the very least, include members from the conservation community. Instead, the Department of Interior went ahead with this flawed idea.
Even more shocking, all but one of the 16 discretionary members the administration chose, hunt foreign species that are subject to import permits, represent an organization that promotes hunting of such species, guide hunts for such species, or is a “celebrity hunter” who glorifies hunting of such species. Yes, we are talking about people that head the NRA and Safari Club International. This insanely biased membership ensures that all committee decisions will benefit hunters at the expense of iconic species already on the brink.
The IWCC was created under a statute called the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which was promulgated to ensure that advice by the various advisory committees is “objective and accessible to the public.” The law states that advisory committees must also be “essential,” “in the public interest,” “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented” and “not be inappropriately influenced by . . . any special interest.” Clearly, the administration forgot to read the law when they formed this committee as it violates each and every requirement!
This council spells disaster for Elephants, Lions and other imperilled foreign species that we all treasure.
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