Canadian Wood Bison Progress: We are having a small measure of success in the wood bison litigation. The defendants (Department of Interior and USF&WS) have agreed to make the 12-month downlisting determination and have it to the Federal Register by September 15th. They have also agreed to complete the long-dormant trophy import permit applications by October 13th. In turn, Conservation Force and all those it represents have agreed to an extension of time for defendants to file an answer, and we have not filed a motion for summary judgment, which we were prepared to file for an expedited resolution of this case.
There is no assurance that the 12-month finding will be positive or that the permits will be granted. We will no doubt amend the suit if the downlisting is not positive and/or the permits are not granted. We have reviewed the comments filed in response to the positive 90-day finding and publication. There is every reason to believe from that examination that the 12-month finding will be positive. The Service then has up to 12 months to make the final rule to downlist or not. We are attempting to negotiate a shorter period for the final determination, which is not as important if the permit applications in October are granted because that is what the improved conservation of the species rests upon. If it is downlisted to “threatened,” import permits will not be required as it is an Appendix II CITES species and the ESA exempts threatened listed species in most cases if they are also protected by an Appendix II listing.
We have amended the suit, based upon issues being raised in other suits, should we have to proceed. We wish the government was being as cooperative in the other cases. We no longer are surprised by the zealousness of the government’s defenses in these suits. It leaves no doubt that the litigation is necessary and that we have been lied to for years. The reality is that the Service firmly stands behind bad practices that are supported by unwritten policies against sustainable use in total disregard of others.
US CITES CoP 15 Positions: International Affairs of the USF&WS has published the positions it is formulating for the next CITES Conference of the Parties, CoP 15, to be held March 13-25, 2010 in Doha, Qatar. It has not decided anything of great concern to hunting interests, but a number of suggestions have been made to it by NGOs that it has not yet decided and still has under consideration pending further review and consultations.
WWF and TRAFFIC US are apparently lobbying hard to have the US list or uplist a number of marine mammals in the Arctic North. They have asked the US to propose the transfer of polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I due to trade impacts and climate change. Provisionally, the Service has decided that “overutilization does not currently threaten the species throughout all or a significant portion of its range, but is exacerbating the effects of habitat loss for several populations and may become a more significant threat factor in the future. While the species may qualify for listing in Appendix I of CITES, further consultation with other range countries is required.... As a result, the United States remains undecided about proposing… transfer….” [emphasis added] The notice calls for input, particularly from the range states such as Canada. One has to remember that CITES is a means for the USF&WS’s International Affairs to end-round the harvest rights native Alaskans have under the ESA and MMPA. They have long regulated US states by that backdoor means, i.e. by CITES listing US species.
The WWF and TRAFFIC also want the US to propose listing of walrus in Appendix II and narwhal for transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I. The Service has both recommendations under review and is required by CITES to consult with the range nations for the species before making a proposal of other nations’ species.
It is obvious that WWF is not happy just making the polar bear into the North American panda. An Appendix I listing of the polar bear and narwhal would prevent all commercial trade such as export/import of skins and tusks.
WWF and TRAFFIC also have urged the US to submit a document to initiate dialogue on how CITES might incorporate impacts of climate change in future deliberations such as listings and making non-detriment determinations. The US states it is currently undecided about submitting a document as well as how the issue might be addressed effectively within CITES. – John J. Jackson, III.