Steve Williams is the new Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. He was confirmed on the eve of President Bush’s State of the Union address to the nation, January 29. He replaces Marshal Jones of International Affairs who had been Acting Director. He had been the Secretary (Director) of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, where he served nearly seven years. It is significant that President Bush nominated a state director to head up the federal agency. There are frequent conflicts between state and federal agencies. The first is management-oriented and the later is regulation-oriented.
Steve Williams has a long pro-hunting history and may be a “godsend” because he made no effort to hide his personal and professional affinity for hunting and fishing. At his confirmation hearing, he fully embraced hunting. He bragged of having added more than 820,000 acres of land “for public hunting” in Kansas while serving as that state’s Director. He went on at that hearing to make the following important statements:
“The mission of the US Fish and Wildlife Service has expanded dramatically over the past few decades. However, two things remain constant, sportsmen and women of the country have been the primary financiers of fish and wildlife conservation. I would like to take steps to shore up what was once a powerful relationship between the Service and our nation’s hunters and anglers. Second, private landowners provide habitat for the majority of fish and wildlife resources. I respect these landowners’ rights and will work cooperatively with them in their interest and in the interest of wildlife. I will strive to strike a balance between the important issues of endangered species protection and the issues associated with preserving and promoting fishing and hunting in this country.
“As America becomes more urbanized and our citizens become generations removed from the land, it is imperative that we maintain a collective connection to the natural world. Hunters, anglers, trappers and wildlife watchers maintain that connection. The Service should partner with state agencies, private organizations and individuals to promote wildlife-associated activities for our citizens....
“If confirmed as Director, I will approach the responsibilities of that position with a passion to deliver programs, opportunities and a vision for the Service that includes protection and conservation of our resources for the American public’s use and enjoyment.... We have an impressive conservation heritage in this country. We must continue the progress made by previous generations to assure that future generations share in the wonderful blessings that we all enjoy….”
A new day may have dawned on the USF&WS. Director Williams is a father, a hunter, a Ph.D. biologist, and much more. He initiated a very aggressive and successful hunter recruitment program in Kansas and was a panel speaker last year at the North American Wildlife Conference in the “Why We Hunt” program. It has been a long time since a director of USF&WS has been so pro-hunting or so unabashedly spoke out about hunting in a confirmation hearing.
Many things in the service have been on hold for the past couple of years. First, there was the delay caused by the presidential election and that was followed by delay in naming a new director. It is very wasteful and costly to hold wildlife and habitat conservation and management at bay for that long. It retards many programs, not just those administered by the service, but those administered by other branches of government as well. Finally, it appears we can expect progress again.
Several years ago, I became deeply concerned when the then-Director of the USF&WS advised a room full of outdoor writers at the Outdoor Writers Association of America Convention that they needed to “disalign” themselves from the “hook and bullet” sportsmen and women of America. Her statement demonstrated her ignorance, but her agenda has deeply troubled me ever since. Now, with Steve Williams in office, I will sleep better at night. We have a qualified pilot at the helm.
The Darker Implications
Of Closing Lion Hunting
Lion hunting in Botswana is not to be reopened. Ian Khama has made it known that he disfavors lion hunting by tourist safari hunters and will not let it be reopened. He is the Vice President of Botswana, the son of Botswana’s first President at the close of the colonial period, and he is expected to become President at the next election. He is a close friend and reportedly a business partner of Derek Joubert, an anti-hunting videographer who has been calling for the closure of all hunting in Botswana for many years, particularly lion hunting. Vice President Khama and Joubert operate a photographic safari lodge together.
The Vice President’s decision to close lion hunting was obviously a personal decision, rather than one based on good socio-eco-biology. A recent lion workshop demonstrated that past lion hunting has been of no significant biological impact, but has been beneficial to lion management and survival. We expect the closure to have a dramatic impact on the long-term survivability of lions in Botswana, as the safari industry has been the principal source of direct and indirect revenue for lion conservation in that country. The hunting has also been the incentive for much of the lion conservation measures.
In addition to lion-hunting license fees that will totally cease to exist, the solvency of the whole safari hunting industry will be weakened. Another of the big-ticket “Big Five” can’t be taken. The hundreds of thousands of dollars in lion conservation funding that has come from safari hunters, their conservation organizations and hunting operators will dry up in due course. We know of well over one hundred thousand dollars in lion research revenue from Dallas Safari Club, Conservation Force, Safari Club International, Rann Safaris and private individuals such as Steve Chancellor in the past few years that are not likely to be duplicated. Millions of dollars have been put into communal-based natural resource development partly dependent upon revenue from lion hunting. It is one more nail in the coffin of those programs now and in the future.
A striking example of the measure of the loss is the rejection of a $2.5 million dollar proposal for additional conservation and management revenue for Botswana’s lions. Conservation Force created a special lion conservation fund called “Lions Forever Fund.” That fund, which paid for the recent lion workshop in Botswana, was conceived by conservationist Steve Chancellor, who was to be the single most important contributor. The fund was designed to provide more than $500,000 a year for a minimum of five years exclusively for lion conservation in Botswana. The Botswana Ministry actually requested and received money from the fund for its recent lion workshop. The more than $40,000 that was spent came from Steve Chancellor, Houston Safari Club, Conservation Force and, separately, from the Botswana Wildlife Management Association (that country’s PH Association). The fund was to be administered without charge and in partnership with the most prominent local Botswana NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). All of this and more has now been whisked away by Ian Khama at a whim. Botswana lion hunting is to remain closed.
This has been coming for some time. The tourist lion-hunting quota has been ridiculously low for nearly a decade. It was only recently increased to 30 per annum before being suddenly closed a year ago. It has been a bizarre situation from the inception. The number of lions killed for problem animal control has been as much as ten times greater than the safari-hunting take. Now, more local people will perceive lions to be a threat, nuisance and incompatible liability. Far fewer will perceive them as revenue-generating assets to be sustainably used.
For nearly a decade, the hunting community has been chasing false issues in Botswana to keep lion hunting open. Now, all excuses have run out. The Lions Forever Fund by itself would have provided $16,666.66 per annum per lion harvested through safari hunting. (30 lions = $500,000). That would have been in addition to the license fees and all related incentives. Leopard, one of the most abundant cats in the world, is expected to follow and its quota is being cut. Even community development and self-determination are not sacred.
The loss of lion hunting in Botswana is not a great loss to the hunting community in an absolute sense, for there was only a quota of 30 lions when it was closed a year ago. However, it is the loss of an experience unmatchable in quality. It is a loss to those of us who have come to love Botswana, its people and its wildlife. It is a loss to Botswana and to the lions themselves. No one gives lions in the wild a higher value than those tourist hunters who hunt them today.
Cameroon Elephant Permits… New Ovis Award… More
Cameroon Elephant Permit Appeals: In the wake of the recent denial of permits to import elephant trophies into the US from Cameroon, Conservation Force has filed a Request for Reconsideration (administrative appeal, first level of process) for all those who contacted our office and signed the authorization we supplied them. We also applied for and were granted an extension until late March that may apply to others who contact the Conservation Force office and get us a signed authorization before the time expires, March 23, 2002. As usual, there is no legal fee for the legal services because of the conservation importance of re-establishing the import of elephant trophies from Cameroon. Just call my office at 504-837-1233 and ask “Diane” for an “Authorization of Representation” form.
We need some special help from all those who have taken elephants in Cameroon. The Compact that provided that successful hunters would pay a $500 surcharge to a special fund as “enhancement” has not been lived up to. We need $500 from all those who have taken elephants in Cameroon since 1995. Make the check payable to Conservation Force and indicate the month and year you took your elephant. It is a tax-deductible contribution. It should be mailed to 3900 North Causeway Blvd., Suite 1045, Metairie, Louisiana 70002. The funds will be used exclusively for elephant conservation in Cameroon in conjunction with the Ministry and NGOs.
New OVIS Award: A new, long-overdue award has been created. It’s called the OVIS Award, and it was given to “the greatest sheep hunter in the world” at the January 2002 Foundation of North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) Convention. There has never been an award specifically earmarked for wild sheep hunters, although both the skill and ardor of wild sheep hunters is incomparable. The award also could not be given at a more fitting occasion than the FNAWS Convention, the annual gathering of an organization that truly does put sheep back on the mountain. Here at Conservation Force we share Dennis Campbell’s belief that OVIS may become the most prestigious hunting award in the world. Campbell is a Director of FNAWS and President of GSC-Ovis (Grand Slam Club-OVIS). The wild sheep of the world and those who hunt them deserve no less recognition.
The first recipient of OVIS is Donald Cox, who is indeed worthy of being recognized as one of the greatest hunters in the world. Don has already been awarded the Weatherby Award (in 1989) and SCI’s International Hunting Award (in 1990) after taking more than 340 big game species. He has taken more than 40 species of wild sheep, totaling more than 75 rams. He is also a conservationist who contributes regularly to Conservation Force, which fact we take great pride in.
The criteria for the OVIS Award is simple, although earning it is not: “(1) The recipient must be an accomplished wild sheep hunter. (2) He or she must have shown a commitment to wild sheep conservation. And (3) He or she must exemplify the highest ethical standards in hunting.”
White Marlin Listing Found to be Warranted: The National Marine Fisheries Service has made the preliminary 90-day listing finding that there is “substantial scientific information” indicating that Atlantic white marlin are threatened or endangered. The Service has therefore initiated a status review, which it expects to conclude by September 3, 2002. The Notice can be found at 66 FR 65676.
The Service is requesting input and suggestions on the location and nature of critical habitat areas to be selected should it be listed. If listed, the restrictions on other big game fishing may prove problematic for all big game sport fishermen.
Endangered Species Act (ESA) Listing Sought for Black-Tailed Prairie Dog: A number of animal rights organizations have joined together in a written request to the USF&WS to proceed with the listing of black-tailed prairie dogs. The group includes Humane Society of the United States, the Fund for Animals, the Prairie Dog Coalition, Predator Conservation Alliance, Rocky Mountain Animal Defense and numerous others.
In February 2000, the Service determined that the species “warranted listing,” but the listing was put off because of the need to focus on higher priority ESA actions. In the interval, the status of the species has been reviewed annually. The anti-hunters are not happy with that. They want the black-tailed prairie dog listed as “threatened” now; or, barring that, they want it moved up on the listing priority list. They argue that the so-called Conservation Agreement between the states to conserve it themselves has not been executed by at least two states, Arizona and Wyoming. Moreover, they say 1.7 million of the prairie dogs were shot in three states alone, and that they continue to be poisoned and suffer from habitat destruction. The letter also includes a notice of intent to sue under the ESA.
Island Fox To Be Listed: The comment period on the proposed listing of the four subspecies of island fox closed February 8th (66 FR 63654). The fox of Santa Cruz Island, San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island and Santa Catalina Island are all expected to be listed as “endangered” under the ESA. The listing of foxes on Santa Rosa Island may compromise the elk and mule deer that have been introduced there, because the proposal identifies the elk as one of the causes of the decline. Hopefully, the Service will recognize that introduced quadrupeds and their hunting actually provide food and necessary protein, which will be necessary when foxes are reintroduced to the island. They are now being held captive for reintroduction.
Important People in the News
• Guy Sagi has succeeded in establishing a new section of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), and he has been selected to serve as head of the section for the first year. It is the Communicators of Hunting’s Heritage section. More than 70 members of the OWAA petitioned the organization. including yours truly. Conservation Force is supporting this new focus by having yours truly, John J. Jackson, III, serve on the section….
• Dr. James Teer, of the Conservation Force Board, is teaching at the University of Pretoria for several months after he was given a Fulbright Grant for that purpose. During that period he is also going to work on Conservation Force’s CBNRM Mozambique Project in Tchuma Tchato. Then, after a short return home, he is headed to Kalmykia to co-host a long-awaited Saiga antelope workshop, which has been partly funded by Conservation Force and Houston Safari Club.
• Bob Delfay, who heads the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) that holds the SHOT Show, and is President/CEO of the Sporting Arms & Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute and Shooting Sports Heritage Foundation is stepping down this year. A smooth transition is expected.
• The Wildlife Legislative Fund of America (WLFA) has changed its name. It is now called the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. The organization’s new web site address is www.ussportsmen.org. E-mail: email@example.com. WLFA is considered one of the “Big Four” in the protection of hunters’ rights, along with the National Rifle Association, Conservation Force and Safari Club International.
• Dr. Patrick J. Bergin has replaced Michael Wright as President and CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). Michael Wright has joined the MacArthur Foundation to direct its Conservation and Sustainable Development Program. Dr. Bergin has been AWF’s top man in Africa. – John J. Jackson, III.
For more information on Conservation Force and/or the services available through Jackson’s alliance with The Hunting Report, write:
One Lakeway Center
Metairie, LA 70002.
Tel. 504-837-1233. Fax 504-837-1145.