On June 5, 2013, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) denied two petitions separately filed by the Exotic Wildlife Association and Safari Club International to remove the US captive-bred “populations” of the Three Amigos (the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle and addax) from under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 78 FR 33790. This negative 12-month finding against the “removal” because it was found “not warranted” terminates the USFWS’ consideration of the two petitions. The hope for relief from the special permit regulations required to hunt these populations was unsuccessful and is finished.
Basically, the USFWS ruled that listing and delisting authority were for “species,” and that a US captive-bred population was not a separate “species.” It also ruled that the ranched US population is not a Distinct Population Segment of the “species” or a separate “range” “in the wild.” The reason given is that SPR (separate range) “analyses have been and will be limited to geographic areas where specimens are found in the wild.” “Range” is interpreted as “being the natural range of the specimen in the wild.” The captive-bred animals are not a “distinct population segment” and are not in their natural range. Regardless, the USFWS reasoned “if a species is found to be endangered or threatened in only a significant portion of its range, the entire species is to be listed as endangered or threatened,” according to its most recent published draft policy defining the meaning of the term “range” (76 FR 76987, December 9, 2011).
“(N)either SCI nor EWA has petitioned to remove or reclassify a grouping of members of the three antelope that qualify to be designated as a separate ‘species’ under the Act, and therefore the petitioned actions are not warranted.
“Based on the analysis… it is the Service’s conclusion that, although the Act does not expressly address whether captive-held specimens of wildlife can have separate legal status, the language, purpose, operation and legislative history of the Act, when considered together, indicate that Congress did not intend for captive-held specimens of wildlife to be subject to separate legal status on the basis of their captive state. This includes designating groups of captive-held specimens as separate DPSes [Distinct Population Segments], excluding captive-held specimens during the listing of wild specimens of the same species, and de facto creating separate listed and nonlisted entities by designating one or more DPSes consisting of wild specimens and leaving captive specimens unlisted. It also would include using the ‘significant portion of its range’ language in the definitions of ‘endangered species’ and ‘threatened species’ to provide separate legal status for captive-held specimens.
“For the reasons given above, the US captive, or US captive-bred specimens of, scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle and addax, do not qualify as separate ‘species’ or otherwise qualify for separate legal status under the Act. Therefore, we find that delisting the US captive, or US captive-bred specimens of, scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle, and addax, is not warranted. This determination is consistent with our position on the status of US captive-held members of these three antelope species since the 2005 listing decision (70 FR 52319; September 2, 2005). During the public comment periods on the proposed rule to list these three species in their entirety (56 FR 56491, 68 FR 43706, and 68 FR 66395), the Service received several comments indicating that it should list only wild specimens of the three species. In the final rule, the Service noted these comments but stated that ‘it would not be appropriate to list captive and wild animals separately’ (70 FR 52319; September 2, 2005).”
In short, the USFWS had decided this before in both the original listing decision and in the adoption of its special regulations when it was raised by commenters.
Now that the decision has been made whether captive-held specimens can have separate legal status based on their captive state, the effect of the listing on the private ranchers that own and manage the Three Amigos has become more important. Positive benefits from the breeding and hunting can and do continue. The USFWS continues to recognize the benefits arising from hunting and has fortified its own administrative structure to support permitting for enhancement of the species not just within the United States, but in the species’ natural range. The USFWS emphasized that significant ranch breeding and hunting continues in over 100 permitted operations.
“Although these captive specimens remain listed as endangered under the ESA, having these captive individuals listed under the ESA does not necessarily ban the hunting of these individuals on game ranches in the United States. We recognized at the time of listing the species that allowing ranches to continue in their management efforts for these species could help to ensure that a viable group of antelope would be available for reintroduction purposes if conditions in the species’ native range improved. Therefore, we have been authorizing well-managed ranches to conduct various management practices, including limited hunting, through our Captive-Bred Wildlife Registration regulation and permitting process. Since the current regulations went into effect on April 4, 2012, we have approved 139 ranches to maintain the species, of which 107 have been authorized to conduct limited hunts to maintain viable herds on their ranches. We accomplished this effort through use of a simple application process through which ranches obtained the necessary permits.”
Conservation Force is the leader in assisting private ranchers in obtaining and operating within the enhancement permitting system. Conservation Force is the “authorized legal representative” of most of the ranches, and the number is growing. We fully supported the separate listing treatment of the US population at each step from the initial listing in 2005 through the comment period on the present “special rule” requiring permits (January 2012), but it is not to be. With support from Dallas Safari Club, Houston Safari Club and private individuals, particularly Lacy and Dorothy Harber and Ricardo Longoria, we have been there for the ranchers in the interim. Good thing we were.
The permit forms for 1) captive breeding and 2) take (hunting) permits are available on the USFWS website at www.fws.gov/permits/applicationforms/ApplicationE.html#esa. Use form number 3-200-41 for captive-bred registration and form number 3-200-37 for take. This information is also available on Conservation Force’s website at www.conservationforce.org. Just call us (504-837-1233) and let us help you.
Let there be no doubt that Conservation Force is all about honing hunting as an even greater force for conservation than it has already been. Hunting is saving these three species in the United States and abroad, and we are facilitating the necessary permitting. Conservation Force has helped the ranchers and the conservation of those endangered species through these trying developments, but we need help too. We need help to step up our assistance program. Please help by making a tax deductible contribution to Conservation Force at PO Box 278, Metairie, LA 70004-0278.