After a key legal defeat, the United States Department of the Interior has told a federal district court in New York that no future meetings of the International Wildlife Conservation Council will be taking place, putting an end to the controversial trophy hunting council.
Environmental and animal advocacy groups sued the Trump administration over the council, composed largely of hunting and gun advocates, and chartered by the Trump administration to advise on the trophy hunting of elephants, lions and other threatened wildlife. The court recently rejected the administration’s motion to dismiss that case.
“I have little doubt our litigation spurred the administration’s decision to abandon the International Wildlife Conservation Council and walk away from its biased and untransparent practices,” Zak Smith, International Wildlife Conservation Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “We are glad the Trump administration is closing shop on this ridiculously misguided council and we await a full accounting of its tainted work product.”
“The end of Trump’s thrill-kill council is a huge victory for elephants, lions and other imperiled animals targeted by trophy hunters,” stated Tanya Sanerib, International Legal Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s still critical to address this biased committee’s past legal violations and prevent self-serving advice from trophy hunters from poisoning federal wildlife policies.”
Disbanding the council is a step forward for wildlife, but the International Wildlife Conservation Council’s advice, reports, and recommendations also violate FACA and legally cannot influence Interior’s decision-making. Federal law requires government advisory panels to be in the public interest, fairly balanced, and protected against improper influence by special interests.
The council met five times since its creation in 2017, but the Trump administration has allowed the International Wildlife Conservation Council charter to lapse, meaning it can no longer use taxpayer dollars to convene.
Interior’s filing was submitted as Safari Club International’s notorious hunting convention kicked off in Reno, Nevada, where the organization auctions off numerous hunting trips, including many targeted at imperiled wildlife.
“SCI’s use of taxpayer dollars to unduly influence international wildlife policy has come to an end, in yet another sign that the unsustainable and inhumane trophy hunting industry is closer to becoming a thing of the past,” said Anna Frostic, Senior Vice President of Programs and Policy for Humane Society International, also representing the Humane Society of the United States.
Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke created the International Wildlife Conservation Council in November 2017 with a goal of promoting the so-called “benefits” of international trophy hunting. Trump’s Interior Department rejected all nominations from conservation, public interest, or science groups, and instead stacked the Council with “friendly political donors,” firearm manufacturers and advocates for trophy hunting, many of whom stand to benefit from changes to federal policy.
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