Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers federal policy developments in conservation, natural resources, wildlife, and animal welfare. 

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What were the first listed species under the Endangered Species Protection Act of 1966 (ESPA): Some of the first species listed under the ESPA include: Red Wolf, Grizzly Bear, Florida Panther, Florida Manatee, Hawaiian Duck, American Ivory-billed Woodpecker, American Alligator, Southern Bald Eagle, and Blue Pike. (See Fish & Wildlife Service).



With fears of a declining population of passenger pigeons, Congress passed the Lacey Act of 1900, to protect wildlife and animals killed illegally. Although not in time to prevent extinction of the passenger pigeon, Americans became more aware of the perils facing many species. It took many decades for Congress to pass the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, with the intent of protecting species and their habitat. On the heels of signing the international agreement to protect wildlife, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).

While the ESA has many supporters, the Act continues to face constant attacks by Members of Congress, often at the urging those interested in developing lands (real estate, etc.) or extracting resources (logging, oil & gas, ranchers using federal lands, etc.) from lands. Disagreements over listings can succeed in delaying necessary protections of vulnerable species and their habitats, see for example the Lesser-Prairie Chicken and Sage-Grouse discussion (toward the end of the posting under the heading Examples of Legislation Detrimental to Animals…) in the Federal Policy Week posting What’s Left: Pending Animal & Habitat Related Legislation in Congress. However, proposed listings and the war against illegal killing and selling of wildlife continue.

This week, as a result of the petitions filed by concerned groups, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced its decision to propose the listing of African Lions as endangered, giving the danger of extinction in the “foreseeable future.” Lions join all the other big cats (e.g. tigers, leopards, cheetahs, etc.) that are already listed as endangered under ESA. Lion populations have declined and are more isolated and face several threats including human development in their habitat, creating direct conflicts and loss of habitat, and a loss of their prey. In a nutshell, human move into their territory – they bring their livestock and kill the lions’ prey so lions have no choice but to attack the livestock. The human respond by killing the lions.

The proposal, sadly, does not prohibit sport-hunting, but does include a permitting mechanism for lion trophies for countries with verifiable management practices. If you would like to comment on the proposal, you have until January 27, 2015 at Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2012-0025 for additional information.

Meanwhile, despite laws preventing the importing of protected animals (or parts from animals), illegal wildlife parts are still entering the US. As reported in The Washington Post, US ports serve as entryways for illegal goods, like elephant ivory and rhino horns. The ports, with an inadequate number of inspectors (330 inspectors), are like sieves through which restricted parts flow. In addition, smugglers capitalize on loopholes in laws that enable antiques (which are often new ivory treated to look like antiques) and trophies from hunts into the US. While President Obama should be commended for bringing more attention to wildlife trafficking with the release of a national plan (“National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking”), increasing inspectors at ports is not included in his plan. The judicial system, according to the article, has been complicit in allowing trafficking to remain low-risk, handing down minimal punishments, far less than justified (in my opinion). And while the Chinese support the largest consumers (and hence supporters) of illegal wildlife products, the US is shockingly the second-largest retail market.

Sadly, many people continue to hunt elephants, lions, and other endangered species for pleasure. And, when it comes to sport hunting, Americans are primarily to blame for killing species like African Lions. The safari business generates significant income for the business owners, but rarely contribute to the local economy and the benefit to species conservation remains highly questionable.

Let’s hope that the F&WS will list the African Lion, Congress will provide additional funding for inspectors at ports to stop smugglers, and judges will hand down the harshest punishments possible against the smugglers.


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