Conservation Force: End Of The Year Letter
December 11, 2007
This was a year of opposite extremes. It was both the best of years and the worst of years. The significance of both extremes will be determined in 2008.
The Presidential Executive Order recognizing the important recreational and conservation value of hunting and ordering all related federal agencies to facilitate and support domestic hunting must rank as the best development. Just how great will be determined in 2008 at an ordered workshop when a ten-year action plan will be conceived. The recognition of the role of hunting is nice in itself, but 2008 will determine if it is real.
The USF&WS approval of the pioneering markhor import permit from Chitral, Pakistan was the first new CITES Appendix 1 hunting trophy to be permitted since Botswana elephant trophies in 1996. Its true significance will be determined in 2008 for we are preparing to file trophy import applications for similar markhor conservancies in January. Three more are to be taken in projects that truly demonstrate to the whole world the unique conservation potential of hunting for critically endangered species. The projects demonstrate that hunters are the heroes or the centerpiece pendant on the necklace of conservation. It also demonstrates that the new USF&WS CITES trophy regulations are not an absolute import barrier in all cases.
The release and return of all Namibia leopard trophies that were detained and/or seized because of the type tag Namibia has long used stands out for two reasons. First, it is uncommon to have Appendix 1 trophies released when there is a technical error, as too many have learned. Second, we strategically and purposely made a political issue of it which contributed to a regulatory change permitting post-import correction of government level mistakes in the future. The new regulation for innocent permit holders applies to all CITES Appendices. In 2008 we will test the new regulation in practice.
The 14th Conference of the CITES Parties fortified the acceptance of hunting worldwide by the Secretary General's opening speech, the expansion of the leopard quota in Mozambique and initiation of a first-time leopard quota in Uganda. The strongest statement in the international community was the resounding defeat when Kenya insisted on a vote in its direct attack on the black rhino hunting quotas of Namibia and South Africa. Conservation Force literally inspired both Mozambique and Uganda's quota requests, persuaded the USF&WS to change its published opposition and is working hard for acceptance of the actual imports into the United States. In 2008 we will put the quotas to the test with permits.
In November the Canadian authorities finally filed a petition to downlist "endangered" listed wood bison in the Yukon after many years of work and persuasion. Many conferences ago, CITES de-listed the wood bison to facilitate trophy hunting, but the U.S. listing has prevented that from being effective. In early 2008 the USF&WS will make its initial finding and probably the final 12-month review within the year.
In 2007 Conservation Force continued to build its network of supporting organizations, continued to recover and rebuild from the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and continued its leadership and participation on dozens of forums, committees, commissions and species specialist groups around the world. We completed our 10th anniversary year, eleven years of the World Conservation Force Bulletin, reissued larger and better-colored Hunters Pay for Most Wildlife Conservation bumper stickers, published the Aging Guide for African Lion in Eastern and Southern Africa, and so much more. We initiated new "smart" wildlife conservation and habitat projects in every corner of the globe from red lechwe in Zambia to argali in Mongolia. The highlight was receiving the Conservationist of the Year award at the Namibian Professional Hunters Association meeting.
The most demanding development was the proposal to list the polar bear that was published in the last few days of 2006. It is amazing how much can occur in little more than a year. It may be the end of the world as we know it. No one has made a greater effort to protect the Canadian management regime which Conservation Force leaders have fostered since the early 90's. No one has expended more on expert reports and filed comments raising more substantive issues. Far more than polar bears are at stake. If some have their way, it will be the end of the modern world in which we live. In 2008 we will no doubt enter into the most demanding litigation we will ever encounter after the final decision in early January. If the petitioners don't get all that they want, they will sue and we must intervene. Alternatively, we may have to sue if only to stop the administration of the ESA from being made worse. Everyone will have to live with the misinterpretation of some ESA clauses forever if we don't make a stand. It is a crisis that calls for an extraordinary effort.
In 2007 HSUS succeeded in demonizing the "use of hunting as a conservation tool" in foreign lands. After exerting pressure for nearly a decade on US AID to discourage any funding of projects associated with tourist hunting, HSUS succeeded in having language placed in the Report on the 2007 Foreign Appropriations Bill directing that no funds go to any program employing hunting as a tool for conservation. WWF's LIFE Plus project in Namibia was cut by millions in late 2007 and is to be terminated completely in early 2008. Instead, in 2008 we need to turn around this negative policy message to the developing world.
In 2006 the Bush Administration unofficially reneged on adoption of the "enhancement policy" changes proposed early by the Administration that would have permitted select import of hunting trophies listed as "endangered" to support the conservation plans and programs of foreign nations. For those of us in Conservation Force, it could be a lifetime of work down the drain. In 2008 we will either persuade the Administration to authorize the better practices or launch into a campaign of last resort litigation the likes of which no one has ever seen. We've just learned that in 2008 Namibia will finally allocate black rhino permits. Of course, we have already orally argued the final appeals of cheetah and black-faced impala before the Director of the USF&WS, which await decision. Our wood bison and Torghar project markhor (Suleiman) permits have long been pending without approval or denial, awaiting the proposed change in policy.
In 2007 the International Section of the USF&WS adopted the most draconian internal CITES regulations of any nation in the world. We fought them over two Administrations for seven years with some success. In 2008 they will be tested, interpreted and applied. Time will tell if leopard floating bone jewelry and elephant hair bracelets will be seized or not. In 2008 the Mozambique and Cameroon elephant final appeals that have already been orally argued before the Director the USF&WS will be decided. The new regulations are in direct derogation of the CITES Resolutions covering trophies. In 2008 we have to decide how and what to do about this stretch of authority on top of the already existing USF&WS attitude that trophy permitting is a "low priority" and is disfavored.
It may seem that this has been the worst year for U.S. international hunters ever, but the Executive Branch of the U.S. is not the only problem front. Botswana has closed its lion hunting again despite Conservation Force's three lion projects in that country and our service on the African Lion Working Group of IUCN. Believe me, we are working on that problem, but in 2008 there is to be a Botswana election that will require an even greater effort to save hunting there. China remains closed, which we will be addressing with our partners throughout 2008. The Paraguay Jaguar Project has been cancelled by a new government. In Zambia, the professional hunters have rejected the lion aging approach and consequently have had their lion quotas sacked as well as continue to oppose the opening of elephant hunting. In 2008 import permits for those elephant will come to the fore and be processed under the new regulations of the USF&WS. In the face of all the bureaucratic impediments in the U.S., Namibia seems to have lost its will for U.S. import of cheetah. The same with Cameroon and Mozambique with their elephant trophies. Regardless, we are working non-stop, seven days a week around the globe for you.
It is that time again at the end of the year to ask for your help. The level of support will determine the course we set in early 2008 and how much we can really do for you. It is as simple as that.
There is no puffing or false scares here, unfortunately. It is real. Conservation Force officers and other volunteers are doing their best for you. We are positioned to do more and we must! Please help.
| Thank you,|
John J. Jackson, III