Court Should Declare Trump’s Trophy Hunting Council Extinct

The deceitfully named International Wildlife Conservation Council (“IWCC”) that the Trump administration created last year is illegal and would promote unfettered trophy hunting of endangered animals, such as elephants and giraffes. It, and not these and other iconic species, is what deserves to go extinct. That’s why NRDC and our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society International have filed a lawsuit to shut it down.

The administration made its bias clear by charging the council with advising Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke “on the benefits international hunting has on foreign wildlife and habitat conservation.” Whether trophy hunting helps conserve threatened and endangered species such as leopards and lions is a controversial issue that the trophy-hunting industry has no interest in exploring. That’s why the administration, in violation of federal law, stacked the IWCC almost exclusively with individuals who have a vested interest in making it easier to hunt and kill imperiled species and import their heads, hides, tusks, feet, and other body parts into the United States. By doing this, it excluded the very scientists, economists, and experts in wildlife conservation whose input is crucial if the council is to provide the department with balanced and credible recommendations.

The IWCC held its first meeting in March, choosing a former National Rifle Association board member and lobbyist as its chairman. It held its second meeting in June and plans to meet again in the fall, although no specific date has been set.

Our lawsuit alleges that the IWCC was established and is operating in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (“FACA”) for the following reasons:

  • Interior Secretary Zinke failed to adequately explain why establishing the IWCC is “in the public interest” and “essential to the conduct of agency business.” Nor did he say why “the information to be obtained is not already available through another advisory committee or source within the Federal Government” as required by FACA;
  • The IWCC’s membership is not “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the advisory committee;”
  • The IWCC is not governed by “appropriate provisions to assure that the advice and recommendations of the advisory committee will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest, but will instead be the result of the advisory committee’s independent judgment;”
  • The IWCC has failed to give timely notice of public meetings or make materials available before or on the date of the meeting.

What all of this means is that the IWCC is nothing more than a tool the Trump administration can use to cut conservation organizations, including NRDC, out of the process of developing federal wildlife policy. The predictable result is sure to be bad for imperiled species.

There’s too much at stake to leave special interests at the table making U.S. international trophy hunting policy. Left alone, you can bet that their thumb on the scale will favor unfettered killing of struggling species and importation of their skins, teeth, skulls, and other trophies. With our lawsuit, NRDC is working hard to keep this from happening.

About the Authors

Zak Smith

Senior Attorney, Marine Mammals, Oceans Division, Nature Program

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