Dozens of House Democrats have asked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to halt all trophy hunting import decisions for elephants and other species, expressing “deep concern” over the Trump administration’s policy.
The 55 lawmakers, led by House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), complained in a Tuesday letter that Interior’s decision to consider trophy import licenses on a “case-by-case” basis reduces transparency and accountability and will allow imports of animal parts into the country.
The Democrats said they have “deep concern about the continued misguided approach the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is taking regarding the trophy killing of elephants and lions in African countries and the negative implications it has for this imperiled wildlife.”
The letter is the latest in a string of wide-ranging, bipartisan opposition to FWS’s decision to repeal a host of species-wide determinations about trophy hunting imports. Such policies must be made based on what would help conservation of the species, and officials now plan to evaluate each import application individually.
“This withdrawal removes all transparency, allows trophy imports into the United States, and facilitates avoidance of public and judicial scrutiny of unjustified permitting decisions,” the lawmakers said.
“The American public is tired of this administration constantly pulling a bait-and-switch, with President Trump tweeting one thing to appease the public and the administration reversing course to meet the demands of big industry and the [National Rifle Association],” they said, referring to Trump’s tweets last year calling trophy hunting a “horror show,” among other comments.
Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift defended the new policy, saying it is in line with what Trump promised.
“The recent FWS posting on the website does not break any promises,” she said.
“In response to a recent D.C. Circuit Court opinion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is revising its procedure for assessing applications to import certain hunted species. We are withdrawing our countrywide enhancement findings for a range of species across several countries. In their place, the service intends to make findings for trophy imports on an application-by-application basis. The secretary and the president’s position remains unchanged.”
The Democrats asked that Zinke halt all trophy imports, initiate a full regulatory process for the policies, make license issuances public and require annual reports from countries where FWS will allow imports.
They also asked that Zinke dismantle the International Wildlife Conservation Council, a new advisory committee that the Democrats contend is assembled mainly to promote trophy hunting.