Major Amendments Made to New Jersey Senate Bill

rhino021314New Jersey’s Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee heard testimony on Monday, November 9th on Senate Bill 3416, Endangered Animal Species. Introduced by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-20), SB 3416 intends to prohibit the possession, transportation, importation, exportation, sale and shipment of any wildlife appearing on the state or Federal endangered species lists, species found on CITES Appendix I and II, nongame species regulated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), or species listed under IUCN Red List as either critical, endangered, or vulnerable.

Monday’s hearing resulted in significant amendments to the bill. Surprised and humiliated by the testimony at the hearing, Senator Lesniak and his supporters anxiously worked to amend a few of the bill’s provisions. The amended bill passed out of the Budget and Appropriations Committee by a vote of 11 to 1.

Senator Lesniak eliminated the ban on possession of ivory and ivory products (including rhino horn and products). Unfortunately, the amendments did not remove New Jersey’s ban on sale and trade in ivory. The Senator also reduced the number of species affected by the bill. While the original bill addressed all species listed on CITES Appendix I and II, the IUCN Red List, state and Federal endangered species lists, and the list of nongame species regulated by the DEP, the amended bill applies to “only” ten species including the African Big Five.

Additionally, the original bill required criminal penalties to those who fail to obtain a “certificate of ownership” for covered wildlife. The penalties include confiscation of the trophy, 3-5 years in prison and a $5,000 to $50,000 fine, the amended bill requires only civil penalties of up to $25 each day a person possesses wildlife without a certificate, collected through a civil action. Even with the certificate, sale and trade would remain illegal, and without the certificate, possession itself would qualify as an illegal act.

Unfortunately, the amended bill still allows a trophy owner only a 180 day grace period to obtain the “certificate of ownership.” The bill authorizes penalties without requirement of any actual notice to the public. Individuals who inherit trophies are subject to the same requirements and penalties for violation of the law.

firstforhunterselephantcloseupAccording to Senator Lesniak, SB 3416 is intended to protect covered species in the wild. Neither this bill nor its supporters can explain exactly how such legislation would positively impact these game species. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Passage of such a law would undermine species conservation, adversely affect sportsmen and women throughout New Jersey, and remove jobs and livelihoods for many African people.

Safari Club International would like to acknowledge Pola Galie from the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs for her valuable research and presentation at the hearing. Her testimony played a huge part in Senator Lesniak’s efforts to amend the bill and remove several of its most egregious provisions.

Despite the amendments, this bill still poses major problems for New Jersey hunters and for all those who seek to import trophies through the port of New Jersey. SCI still needs to fight this terrible law, but with support from SCI members and our partner organizations we hope to defeat this anti-conservation measure.

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