Conservation Groups File Suit Against Trump Administration’s Pro-Trophy Hunting Council

The so-called “International Wildlife Conservation Council” advisory panel has exactly zero conservation experts.
Credit: Dominik/Flickr

The so-called “International Wildlife Conservation Council” advisory panel has exactly zero conservation experts.

To save treasured big game from reckless hunting, Democracy Forward, on behalf of NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, and Humane Society International, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Wednesday against the Trump administration for illegally establishing the misnamed International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC)—a U.S. Interior Department advisory group with members hand selected to bolster support for overseas trophy hunting.

The IWCC’s central premise—that killing endangered species for sport is a strategy for conserving them—is a “self-serving notion,” said Zak Smith, a senior attorney at NRDC and director of its Wildlife Trade Initiative. “Elephants, rhinos, and lions face enough threats without the U.S. government giving the cover of credibility to trophy hunters.”

The suit argues that the council violates federal law, which requires government advisory panels to be balanced and not overtly influenced by special interests. Filled with big-game hunters, firearm executives, business representatives with close ties to the Trump administration, and exactly zero conservation experts, the IWCC fails on both accounts.

The council is also rife with financial conflicts of interest: Four of the 17 council members signed on to host a “Camouflage and Cufflinks” inaugural ball last year, soliciting millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

“Zinke’s thrill-kill council is unethical and illegal, and apparently that’s just fine with him,” said Tanya Sanerib, international program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, referring to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The IWCC is just one in a string of pro–trophy hunting policies coming out of the Trump administration. In 2017, Zinke disbanded two wildlife policy committees and that November, the administration abandoned an Obama-era ban on elephant trophy imports. Following public outrage, the reversal was put on hold but then later replaced with a weak “case-by-case” policy by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. According to a Humane Society International report, trophy hunting has caused the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of animals since 2005—and a committee stacked with special interests influencing the administration's policies will only make matters worse.

“These people kill imperiled animals for fun,” Sanerib said. “They have no business making policy decisions about wildlife imports, and we’re hopeful that the courts will agree.”

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