The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has long been a favorite tool of the anti-hunting crowd to manipulate, obfuscate and litigate species to permanent residence on the ESA—a “Hotel California”for wildlife as it were. Now emboldened liberals have dropped any pretense of scientific reason or necessity to “protect” species with the re-introduction of the H.R. 6885, the CECIL Bill.
The inelegantly named Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act, or CECIL Act, was re-introduced last week by the newly appointed House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). But despite its awkwardly boot-strapped acronym, it quite literally could be the end of all hunting by U.S. citizens outside our country’s borders.
H.R. 6885, the CECIL Act, is bad for hunters and wildlife conservation on multiple levels:
2.AMENDMENT TO PROHIBITED ACTS:“(A) import into or export from the United States any species listed or proposed to be listed under section 4(c) as a threatened species or endangered species…”
Read that again: “…any species on the ESA or proposed to be listed…” on ESA.
This provision is a blank check for anti-hunting animal rights extremists to have any species they like treated by the United States as if it were actually threatened or endangered: any species. For example, say the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) proposes that the red stag be placed on the ESA. The CECIL Act would then require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to place the same bureaucratic requirements on the stag as is it does the African elephant or lion. When the USFWS finally works through the onerous and time-consuming process of proving the obvious—that the red stag is not threatened or endangered—and drops ESA treatment for the red stag, the Center for Biological Diversity steps up and proposes the red stag be placed on the ESA, and the entire, long-lived and wasteful process begins again … for any species.
It takes no imagination to see the animal rights’ industrial complex having a field day with CECIL. Not only could those against hunting keep any species they like subject to ESA treatment in perpetuity, in many cases, the USFWS would have to reimburse these professional plaintiffs for their legal expenses. Incentivizing bad actors to fill their coffers at the government’s expense is bad policy on its face, but the inevitable constant stream of litigation would effectively defund science-based wildlife management practices throughout the world.
But there is more bad. The bad is just getting started.
3. IMPORTS OF SPORT-HUNTED TROPHIES:“(3) Before issuing any permit under this Act authorizing import from any country of a sport-hunted trophy of a threatened species or endangered species, the Secretary must make a finding after public notice and comment pursuant to section 553 of title 5, United States Code, of whether hunting of the species in such country enhances the propagation or survival of the species.”
Section 3 of CECIL, among other things, requires the Secretary of The Interior to make a determination as to whether hunting of a species in a foreign country benefits the survival of the species. On its face, this does not appear catastrophic. While requiring a positive determination as to whether harvesting a kudu in South Africa or a water buffalo in Australia is of benefit to the overall species is a bureaucratic nightmare, we have advocates such as the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, the Dallas Safari Club and others to fight those battles for a species enhancement finding, right? Wrong! The bill does not require the enhancement finding for each foreign species, but rather a positive determination that the individual U.S. citizen’s hunt benefits the species for each trophy harvested. Put another way, in order to import the cape and horns of an impala, warthog, zebra and blue wildebeest harvested on an African safari, the hunter would be required to obtain a determination of enhancement approval for EACH species from the Secretary of the Department of The Interior: FOUR import permits. And that is not the worst of the bad. Not even close.
Drilling deeper into the language of Sec. (3) reveals a frightening additional requirement: “…the Secretary must make a finding after public notice and comment.” Translation: a public notice and comment period, or put another way, after asking People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) if it okay to harvest a fallow deer.
CECIL not only allows anti hunters to mandate every species domiciled outside the borders of the United States be treated as endangered, it also requires that hunters prove the hunt for each animal on their bag list be determined by the Secretary of The Interior that the harvest of said animal would “enhance the propagation or survival of the species.” But before this extremely high and laborious bar can be cleared, the cat ladies and bunny huggers of the world first have the opportunity to tell the USFWS why “so-called” mean, heartless hunters should be precluded from harvesting a blackbuck in Argentina in the first place.
Under CECIL, the USFWS would require that each hunter’s permit request be published, then it would open up that request to a 60-day comment period. Can you imagine the response by the animal rights extremists? Coordinated by every “Save The” and “Humane” organization out there to justify their $19 monthly donation ploys, the social media campaign against hunters would be relentless and overwhelming. If you cannot imagine the social media tsunami of vitriol that would be spewed against every hunter applicant as the USFWS opened up permit requests to public comment, think back to hunters Walter Palmer, Kendall Jones, Melissa Bachman or any of the other hunters who have been crucified on the cross of social media.
There is even more bad in CECIL. Hunters must pay the United States government’s cost to investigate and issue each permit. The General Accountability Office (GAO) would be required to make determinations of each hunt’s benefit in foreign countries. The International Wildlife Conservation Council of the USFWS would be abolished. And the cherry on top is the permanent ban on the import of elephant and lions from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, but these requirements and restrictions are just piling on and will be addressed at another time.
In examining CECIL’s requirements including permitting ESA treatment at the whim of the antis, compelling the USFWS to investigate a permit for a single animal as if it were determining the species’ inclusion on the ESA, and mandating the USFWS publish and allow comment on each import permit application it receives, it is difficult to see this as anything other than what it is: death by a thousand cuts. At the end of the day, the outcome is the same: Sustainable-use conservation dies.
Hunters’ Call to Action
For members of the collective hunting community who have never hunted or never plan to hunt abroad and see this as “the other guy’s or gal’s problem,” it will not be long before the backers of H.R. 6885 start “protecting” deer, elk and turkeys in our own backyards.
About the Author: Steve Scott is a reformed attorney, long-time university instructor, and producer and host of the Safari Hunter’s Journal and Outdoor Guide television series. Learn more about him at www.SteveScott.TV.
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