By John J. Jackson and Regina Lennox
In late February, US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) solicited comments on revising their permit application forms. Only Conservation Force, Humane Society of The United Sates (HSUS), and three music industry representatives provided comments. We suggested changes to six different forms for a total 31 specific revisions. We also pointed out that certain forms used an inconsistent definition of a sport-hunted "trophy" that conflicted with the published regulations. We suggested edits to reduce the risk of trophy seizures and make it easier for hunters to complete the forms.
In late May, FWS published a response to the comments received. Conservation Force's comment was discussed first, as we provided the only specific recommendations for revising the applications. FWS could not respond to HSUS' comment because HSUS did not address the specific subject matter.
FWS will soon post the new permit applications containing the changes suggested by Conservation Force.
Although the FWS did not address every one of our suggestions, they incorporated a number of our edits into the newly revised forms. Those were approved by the Office of Management and Budget on August 23. Conservation Force received advanced notice that the new permit applications forms had been approved. Those forms will soon be published to the FWS website to replace the currently expired forms. Stay tuned, as we will update readers once the new forms are live
The new forms are not hugely different from the old ones. But the subtle changes will matter-both for generating more information for FWS to use in making required findings, and reducing some of the risk of trophy seizures.
To summarize our suggestions: We commented on the forms relevant to tourist hunters, including 3-200-19, Import of Leopard and Namibian Southern White Rhino (and previously of African Elephant); 3-200-20, Import of Sport-Hunted Trophies (in general); 3-200-21, Import of Argali Sport-Hunted Trophies, and 3-200-22, Import of Bontebok Sport-Hunted Trophies. These forms have the same basic structure and request the same basic information.
The first page of each seeks a hunter's identifying info (e.g., name, address, phone, email). This page is similar to the old one, but FWS made two beneficial changes. First, the form no longer asks for an applicant's social security number, fax, or occupation and affiliation.
Because of the animal rights organizations' use of Freedom of Information Act requests to glean data on tourist hunters, the deletion of "occupation" reduces the risk of identifying disclosures. Removing the social security number requirement mitigates a data privacy concern. Both edits are welcome suggestions of Conservation Force that should provide added privacy.
In addition, page 1 of the form no longer asks: "Do you currently have or have you ever had any Federal Fish and Wildlife permits? If yes, list the number of the most current permit you have held or that you are applying to renew/re-issue." The days of digging through old files to find a decades-old permit have (mercifully) passed.
On the second page, the instructions have largely remained the same for each application. At our suggestion, FWS removed a question that asked for a description of the trophy and parts the applicant wished to import. This question was confusing because the examples suggested taxidermied parts, such as a "shoulder mount," and hunters who wished to have this work done once in the US would sometimes use this description, because it represented the end goal. However, if the trophy to be imported was tanned but not yet taxidermied, it could potentially be seized because it did not match the import permit description of a "shoulder mount." Now the definition of "trophy" covers raw, tanned, and worked parts, and the shipment simply needs to match the export permit.
Next, the revised forms ask three questions on the front that previously were located at the back of prior versions: the shipping address (if different from the mailing address on page 1); the contact person for the application; and the applicant's violation history, i.e., if the applicant had been assessed a civil penalty or convicted of violations of various federal wildlife laws. These questions are almost exactly the same except that in asking for a shipping address, the new form now asks for a "self-addressed, prepaid, computer generated, courier service airway bill" if an applicant would like expedited shipping. This avoids FWS staff having to contact an applicant to obtain an expedited shipping label. Previously, FWS staff would call-or fail to call-to have a shipping label mailed or emailed. The prior method literally put "expedited" shipping at the same speed as US mail because of the extra steps. (If you can believe.) Now, an expedited shipment can proceed automatically.
The next page, containing information about the trophy and the location, is like the old forms. For the species-specific application forms (e.g., leopard and rhino, argali, bontebok), the form asks for the quantity. As with the prior versions of these forms, the questions break down by whether the hunt has occurred. If the hunt has not yet occurred, the application asks for the country and area as specifically as possible and the date the hunt will occur. If the hunt has already occurred, the application asks for the country and area, date of the take, and current location of the trophy.
However, both sections include a new question (we did not suggest) requesting the name of the hunting outfitter, safari company, or PH. This is an interesting addition that paves the way for FWS to make direct factual inquiries of those that conducted the hunt, or perhaps to make operator-specific determinations to issue import permits.
Next, a new question on the revised form asks for copies of foreign hunting permits or licenses. If the hunt has not occurred and no licenses or permits have been issued, the applicant must state this. Be sure to obtain and retain copies of your foreign license or permit if you wish to import your trophy
Further down, the forms include the same question as previously: the name and address of the overseas person or business shipping the trophy. This is the "consigner" on the import permit and must match the export permit. The forms also include the same certification statement as on the current forms, which the applicant must sign, attesting that the trophy was hunted for personal use. It also points out the link to the list of designated ports for import.
In total, the forms are slightly shorter than the prior versions. They include the same basic questions-and a few new ones that suggest new priorities in the FWS' review.
For the species-specific forms: The leopard and rhino form previously including the African elephant as well. FWS has not yet posted the substitute, a new form that apparently only applies to Appendix-II listed elephant (from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe). All other elephant trophy import applications should be submitted on the general "import of sport-hunted trophies" form.
The bontebok form is largely the same (subject to the general changes discussed above).
The argali form is also largely the same. However, there is no longer a note requiring a hunt report to be made within 30 days. We are not aware that the reporting has been waived; it seems the form simply does not remind the applicant of this obligation.
Notably, the general sport-hunted trophy form (3-200-20) includes a new statement of the ESA's "enhancement" requirement. We had commented that the wording should be changed because the old forms stated that FWS "must" make an enhancement finding, and that is not true for CITES Appendix-I listed species (unless they are also ESA-listed). Accordingly, FWS revised the terminology to specify only ESA-listed species. The FWS added another new sentence, by which it commits to contacting range state authorities in connection with a permit application. It also made a much clearer request for enhancement data from individual hunters:
We will communicate with the range country where the species you will hunt/have hunted in making the required findings [sic], if you have any information that could support this finding, it would be helpful to our review if you could provide it. Please submit such information on a separate page with your application.
A. Do you have any information regarding the population status or trend data on the species hunted?
B. In order to hunt, you likely paid for licenses or trophy fees. What were those fees and do you have any information on how those funds were used by either the landowner, community, or government?
C. Do you have information on other funding activities that are being carried out, or were carried out, by the safari outfitter, professional hunter, concession holder, or land owner that provide a conservation benefit to the species being hunted/species hunted?"
That the permit form now breaks down and calls attention to each segment of the request suggests FWS wishes for applicants to provide as much of this information as possible. Hunters have a real opportunity to submit data to illustrate the benefits of lawful hunting. Accordingly, if you have information on your specific operator or PH's commitment to conservation, it will be very helpful to submit a statement and documentary evidence to FWS in support of your application.
For domestic exotic game ranches seeking to cull excess listed species through hunting, form 3-200-37 is basically the same. One change is FWS finally added a check box for "take (e.g., cull, lethal harvest)." The captive-bred registration form is also basically the same. We had requested extensive changes … which were not made. For both these forms, an applicant can now submit electronic files by disk or through the FWS' email at firstname.lastname@example.org
. This includes supporting documents for proof of enhancement.
In short, the forms are different but largely the same. There is a more specific opportunity for applicants to provide information about their operator's or PH's strong commitment to conservation. And there is a reduced chance of seizures due to the omission of the prior requirement to identify the parts to be imported. But overall, the changes are not extensive. We will renew our requests for improvement as the opportunity arises but consider this round a success.