Legislating is a Marathon Not a Sprint

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By now most of you have heard that a section of the recent budget deal reversed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wrong-headed policy with regard to hunting the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle and addax in the United States.  This fix will make hunting easier, protect exotic-game ranchers, and most importantly insure that the genetic stock of these critically endangered antelope is conserved.  While the language in the bill is only five lines long, the story behind this law is much longer.

SCI lawyers drafted this language back in the summer of 2011 when the FWS first announced rules that would institute permit requirements for the hunting of U.S. members of the three species.  At the time, many ranchers chose to abandon their efforts to raise and breed antelope herds, rather than deal with the bureaucratic headaches involved with obtaining permits and owning federally listed species.  The loss of significant numbers of the three species in the U.S. threatened to   severely undermine future reintroduction and recovery efforts.  SCI sought a legislative fix that would remove permit requirements for the continued hunting of U.S. members of the three species.  After drafting four or five versions of this fix, SCI determined that the simplest and most narrowly tailored language would be the most likely to succeed.  The proposed language simply directed the FWS to reissue the regulations the agency had adopted in 2005 and abandoned in 2012 that exempted the species from Endangered Species Act take prohibitions and that made permits unnecessary for the sale of hunts for U.S. members of the three species.

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Dama Gazelle

Since then SCI and other partner organizations, such as the Exotic Wildlife Association and Dallas Safari Club, have been working diligently to get this fix inserted into any budget bill possible.  This task was made more difficult because the federal government has been funding itself on continuing resolutions for years, eliminating the opportunity to include provisions in budget bills.  This problem was largely due to the inability of the Democrat-led Senate to pass a budget for over 4 years! Finally, in January 2014 Congress agreed on a real budget deal and SCI found its chance to insert this legislative solution to protect exotic game ranchers across the country.

The FWS now has 60 days to reissue the 2005 regulations. We look forward to a return to normalcy, but remain vigilant for the next attempt by animal rights groups to thwart hunting as a means of three antelope conservation.

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