Everything to Know About Trump’s New Trophy Hunting Council

(C) Elizabeth Heyd

In early November—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.

Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council’s mandate includes counseling 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 favors 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, I’m 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.

Oh, did I mention that we, the public, will pay for these members to travel to Washington, D.C. twice a year for meetings?

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!

The first meeting of this council is scheduled for March 16 from 9:30 am-4:30 pm. While advance RSVP is required—the council is clearly trying to shield its actions from the public eye—we will keep everyone posted on what occurs.

Unfortunately, there’s one thing we all know without attending: this council spells disaster for elephants, lions and other imperiled foreign species that we all treasure.

About the Authors

Elly Pepper

Deputy Director, Wildlife Trade Initiative and Wildlife Advocate, Land & Wildlife Program

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