Re: Mid-Year Fundraiser and Crisis
Conservation Force, John J. Jackson, III
The threats to international hunting are worsening. The recent listing of the polar bear is only one example. The losses are far greater and mounting, but no one seems to be keeping score. Hunting as we have known it is in doubt unless we vigilantly guard our rights and step up the fight. We can't let anyone take our rights without a fight and can't have rights unless we fight for them.
First, an update on the polar bear fight. We failed miserably to stop the listing of all the polar bear in the world. Absolutely no one made a greater effort or played a larger leadership role in forming and heading opposition to the proposal. Despite nearly three years of effort, the end result demonstrates we never stood a chance. It was one of the most demanding challenges we have ever faced and is not over yet.
The bear was listed over Canada's objection without taking into account the recognized adverse impact on its conservation success and programs. The USF&WS will ultimately take a quantum leap in importance in everyone's daily life and a handful of little-known polar bear scientists command the attention of the world. In the end, polar bear hunting was maligned as being an additive loss by the Secretary of Interior in his press conference. He dared to describe the ban on imports as a benefit and the sole benefit of the listing! It was a cheap shot and apology for a law gone wrong. The backbone of "conservation hunting" in the north came full circle to be portrayed negatively! He suggested that the record number of bear that exist today must be spared from hunting decades in advance of projected declines. Think about that. Of course, that is incorrect. The bear will still be taken. Moreover, the bear and the Canadian people have been devalued by the listing. The essential incentives and funds for its conservation and management have been reduced without corresponding benefits.
Fortunately, we had the foresight to file an intervention in the Oakland polar bear suit. That judge granted our intervention and has agreed to reconsider the date she had ordered the listing to be given effect. The 2.75 million dollars of trophies of those 60 Spring 2008 hunters hangs in the balance as I write this. To our horror, the government is arguing that is it too much trouble to issue the permits from this Spring and the court has no jurisdiction to undo what it did. If we fail, we will appeal. We succeeded in intervening. We succeeded with our motion for reconsideration. We succeeded in getting the USF&WS not to mail denial notices to every applicant as it intended to do the day after the listing. We succeeded in getting the judge to broaden the period/permits she would consider for import. A lot of work producing lots of step-by-step victories. As a failsafe, we have prepared Congressional relief if it proves necessary.
We have also filed seven import permits under the "enhancement" provision of the MMPA, which is a special exceptions permit. This is unprecedented, but is the only possible trophy importation left according to the USF&WS. The 1994 Amendment to the MMPA that has been the basis for importation of trophies from "approved areas" has been made inapplicable by the listing that triggers sections of MMPA which now treat the polar bear as "depleted" as a matter of law. Depleted marine mammals can't be imported except under a 1988 Amendment that authorizes imports when that import enhances the survival of that particular population or stock. After a great deal of review, we've chosen seven bear taken in the Gulf of Boothia which is a dense population (perhaps overpopulated) that is growing and was on the verge of approval at the time the listing proposal was launched. Because the area was not yet "approved", the bear fall outside of those the Oakland federal judge is considering. It is the only hope for those hunters, but will establish the protocol for everyone in the future. We have solicited the help of scholars of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute and leading polar bear scientists to present the best possible case. No one said it would be easy. From the get-go, the legal counsel for the Marine Mammal Commission has advised they will oppose the permits. It is an enormous undertaking, but who is better qualified to make the effort? If successful, our effort may establish a protocol for a limited number of polar bear to be imported in very select instances in the future.
We still have a possible suit to challenge the listing of Canada bear under review. We lament the loss of polar bear that bonded us with our Canadian friends. That is a troubling dilemma. Frankly, we need far more financial support before we can safely enter that fray. The support we have falls far short, yet no one else can or will make the crucial arguments that need to be made. What are we to do without the proper resources? The costs of four or five bear hunts would do it, but it has not been forthcoming.
Greater Threats to Hunting
Despite how much it means to us that opened polar bear imports and now witness its closure, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Other losses are quantifiably greater. As I write this, we are about to lose Zimbabwe which has provided in the range of 500 to 700 hunts each year. President Bush has reportedly ordered a ban on importation of firearms and economic sanctions that will destroy the CAMPFIRE Program and all those professional hunters and friends of hunting holding on and hoping. The far-reaching ramifications of this loss are too enormous to express in this short letter. Suffice it to say that Zimbabwe and all it has stood for is about to come full circle like the polar bear. Our government will destroy the hunting program and conservation base of that foreign land to be politically correct. It is the loss of one of the largest elephant, leopard and lion hunting destinations on the menu and we are doing it to ourselves. Score one against hunters. It is the birthplace of the concept of sustainable use. Whether you agree or not, like the polar bear, the damage will be self-imposed by the U.S. government and without offsetting benefit.
In May and early June, as many as 100 trophy shipments from every corner of the globe were detained, seized or turned back at U.S. borders by USF&WS Law Enforcement. But for Conservation Force's successful plea to the Director of USF&WS for a time-out, the new regulations would have been a worse nightmare. The USF&WS is phasing in its new regulations that treat permits with clerical, procedural and nonsubstantive errors as invalid. Moreover, if a CITES Appendix 1 species like leopard and elephant, even errors by government officials are wholly the responsibility of the hunter. Our plea for temporary relief was successful, but not a cause for celebration. If this is allowed to continue, the importation of all CITES listed species and the conservation dependant upon that trade is in jeopardy. No doubt, a new devotion to detail is necessary and importation of one's trophies can no longer be taken for granted as in the past. More trophies will be seized and lost than at any time in the past due to unnecessary and burdensome procedural rules. This too pales the polar bear loss and is of our government's choosing. The noose is closing on hunting.
The USF&WS International Division has fortified itself and its practices with new regulations outright rejecting all CITES quotas and range nations' non-detriment determinations. As I write this it has stopped granting elephant import permits from Tanzania - the country with the second-largest elephant population in the world (approximately 150,000) - without warning or notice. Again, this is because of self-imposed requirements. Ditto elephant import permits Conservation Force has pending for Zambia, Mozambique, Niassa of Mozambique and Cameroon. Soon it may be impossible to import trophies of Appendix 1 listed species.
The USF&WS has just seized the first utilitarian items made from a trophy because it has redefined the term "trophy". Rhino feet ice buckets and bowls and tailswish all taken by a hunter have been seized as no longer being trophies.
Argali trophies from Mongolia taken during the Spring are being arbitrarily seized without prior notice or reason after years of acceptance.
It is time for action. President Bush's Executive Order to facilitate our hunting heritage does not protect international hunting or its conservation role. At the Technical Workshop to develop a plan for its implementation, I was the sole voice for including international hunting. Though I managed to add it to the agenda by hopping between working groups, it was ultimately eliminated in total. It's an accepted fact that the Order does not extend to international hunting. We need to introduce Resolutions at the next Conference of Parties of CITES to forgive procedural, nonsubstantive permitting mistakes of no conservation importance. We also need retrospective correction of mistakes made by exporting authorities whether they are CITES or customs personnel. Let's make trophy import regulations reasonable and rational. Here at home in the U.S. we need protection of the international hunter and conservation hunting around the world. Hunters need to be restored their tools to save game species and habitat that they care so very much about.
The U.S. Government is not the only cause of the losses and added burdens being self-imposed that pale the polar bear crisis. Rhino hunting is teetering in South Africa as that government takes drastic measures to curb unintended rhino parts trade. We have been working on that behind the scenes for nearly a year. Botswana's lion and perhaps leopard are still not to be on quota. We have four conservation projects in Botswana. China hunting remains firmly closed to non-residents. We have been working on this and more at the highest level for two years.
Conservation Force is working on all of these issues. It's just a small measure of what all we do for you. Good thing that we do. What we do is essential, but we need to do more or the losses will be even more staggering. Unfortunately, the present need exceeds the limit of our resources. We have no alternative but to start measuring and limiting our responses to the growing crises unless donors step up their support. We are the most underfunded, overwhelmed and underpaid organization fighting for your rights despite our unequalled successes.
We urgently need your support. Please help us now. Thank you.
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