U.S. Releases Implementation Plan to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

blackrhino2A year to the day after President Obama issued a “National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking,” the U.S. released its plan to implement that strategy. Although the plan’s overall objective is to target and reduce wildlife trafficking and not to make it more difficult to hunt and import sport-hunted animals, the lengthy plan does include several proposed actions that could impact the hunting community. SCI is currently analyzing the plan so as to best advise SCI members on its ramifications and prevent applications that would inappropriately burden the interests of hunters.

The plan recommends the evaluation and development of federal laws to strengthen the federal government’s authority and tools to investigate, deter and prosecute wildlife trafficking crimes. In addition, the plan recommends the use of executive orders and regulations to address wildlife trafficking and increase the penalties for those who engage in trafficking related crimes. Of particular note to the hunting community is the plan’s recommendation to “revise forfeiture regulations and streamline forfeiture appeal procedures to clarify and improve the processing of unlawful imported wildlife.”

One of the plan’s primary objectives is to establish a near-total U.S. ban on elephant ivory and rhino horn trade. To accomplish this, the administration intends to revise the existing special rule that allows the importation of elephants into the U.S. One of those revisions will be a limit on the number of sport-hunted elephant trophies that an individual can import into the United States each year. The plan does not specify a date for the release of a proposed rule to initiate this change.

While the plan offers significant reason for concern, it also includes some recommendations that the hunting community can support. For example, the plan recommends tools that will direct funds taken from wildlife traffickers back to conservation efforts to protect the wildlife harmed by those traffickers. The plan also describes several ways that the U.S. government could and should assist and support other governments in their efforts to monitor, discourage and penalize illegal wildlife trafficking.

SCI will carefully monitor the implementation of this plan and will make every effort to assert the interests of the hunting community wherever possible. We will work to prevent hunters from being subjected to unnecessary restrictions that provide no benefit for wildlife conservation.

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