President Donald Trump and the White House administration are under attack from animal rights groups regarding the decision to permit some imports of African elephant trophies, saying that the new system will allow decisions to be made in secret.
“The direction that the government is going is not a good one and it’s not being good stewards of the animals that they are supposed to be caring for,” said Kitty Block, acting CEO and president of The Humane Society of the United States.
Last Thursday, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it will make a decision about whether to allow the trophy imports on a case-by-case basis, using scientific risk assessments and other available data.
According to The Hill, animal rights groups say that the new policy, which casts aside years of Endangered Species Act findings, will come at a heavy price. They fear that, under the new system, it will be difficult to track what imports are approved.
“At least before we could get one of these countrywide findings, and then you would know, ‘OK, this is what the agency decided for the country. Does it check all of the boxes in terms of the regulatory requirements?’ ” said Tanya Sanerib, the international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s International Program.
“Now they say they are going to do it on a permit by permit basis and now it’s going to be impossible to track — our only recourse now will be the Freedom of Information Act. Given this administration, it doesn’t shock me at all.”
However, the Interior Department said that the FWS had no option but to change its policy after a D.C. Circuit Court ruling in December dismissed an Obama-era policy that forbids importing elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe.
Apparently, the regulation was invalid because the Obama administration did not follow the required steps under the Administrative Procedure Act.
“In response to a recent D.C. Circuit Court’s opinion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is revising its procedure for assessing applications to import certain hunted species. We are withdrawing our countrywide enhancement findings for a range of species across several countries,” a spokesperson for the FWS said in a statement.
“In their place, the Service intends to make findings for trophy imports on an application-by-application basis.”