A committee of Conservation Force has determined that it is necessary to have a permanent Litigation Division to contend with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings, regulations and permitting issues created by the Division of International Affairs of the US Fish & Wildlife Service as well as the seizures and forfeiture practices of its Law Enforcement Division. The threat to international hunting is no longer a secret. The need to develop and maintain specialized expertise in the esoteric areas of the law and the need for litigation has become obvious from USFWS’ own administrative records.
The fact that the conservation interest of hunters and foreign conservation programs are given “low priority” treatment in virtually every instance, year after year, no matter the Administration, calls for action. “Low priority” means they never get to first base in a decade or more, then, because of the embarrassing delay, International Affairs gets imaginative in dealing with applications to make them go away. It means the work is not even scheduled to be done, and they don’t know when it will be scheduled.
The administrative records demonstrate that permitting as partners for conservation has been a complete hoax. The partnership has been wholly one-sided. Instead of processing permits, they have developed internal regulations to make it harder - a wall of resistance to discourage applications for new areas or populations. Personnel turn over more than permits. Political administrations turn over more. They come and go while permits languish and action on permit applications is directed more towards sidelining than completion. The low priority treatment and obturation is universal, not for one particular species or range nation, and regardless of the conservation benefits of the activity. The permitting records being produced no longer leave any doubt whatsoever that timelines must be set and adhered to. In future issues of this Bulletin, we will cite some revealing examples from the records being produced.
The Law Enforcement port of entry inspectors are enforcing all the new regulations that were adopted by International Affairs over the objections of the hunting community and in unabashed defiance of CITES Resolutions. Those 2007 regulations have naturally served to focus the attention of Law Enforcement on the many - too many - technicalities of trophy importation while repeatedly emphasizing that any violation whatsoever converts the private property into “contraband that is illegal to possess in which there is no custodial interest” whatsoever. Law Enforcement is confused by all the new regulations and unduly occupied with them. It has definitely served to make trophy imports the focus of their attention. International Affairs has awakened Law Enforcement and forced it to view trophy imports far more closely and strictly. There are also more regulations to violate.
More and more attorneys have been offering their services across the country. It is snowballing. Soon we will have attorneys working with us in every port. It is a fight bigger than anything the hunting world has ever known. In many instances the losses are likely to be forever. We owe it to our prodigy to recover all the losses that we can, to hold the line here and now, to make them respect hunters’ interests, to make International Affairs think twice before they take more from us. It is time to be a force for better treatment. International Affairs will not like the fight, but they only have themselves to blame. We have pleaded and reasoned with them for too many years: now we must act. Please help us if you can.
The permanent legal division will add a new force to Conservation Force: the force of law. What has been a task force will now be a strike force ever at the ready. It will provide pro bono or discounted at-cost legal services for the benefit of all.