BREAKING NEWS: Lawsuit prompts shutdown of trophy hunters’ panel in Trump administration

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on February 10, 2020 with 29 Comments

A panel of trophy hunters appointed by the Trump administration to advise the federal government on international wildlife trade policy has bitten the dust.

Following a lawsuit filed by a coalition that included Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States, the Department of the Interior last week disbanded the International Wildlife Conservation Council, a committee that in every sense embodied the “fox in the henhouse” idiom.

The IWCC was appointed in 2017 by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a trophy hunter himself. It was made up almost entirely of trophy hunters and gun industry lobbyists from groups like the NRA and Safari Club International who were charged with exploring the “benefits” international trophy hunting produces for foreign wildlife and habitat conservation.

In the two years that the IWCC was in existence, at a cost of $250,000 per year to taxpayers, the United States, not surprisingly, saw some of the worst policy decisions ever taken on endangered and threatened wildlife, most of them coming from the Department of the Interior and one of its agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2018 and 2019, for example, IWCC members pressed for the lifting of prohibitions on imports of elephant and lion trophies from Tanzania, prohibited under the Obama administration, and in 2019, the USFWS did indeed issue an import permit for a lion trophy from Tanzania, the first since the species was listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2016. The Trump administration also issued permits to three Americans to import trophies of endangered black rhinos they had killed.

In the two years that the IWCC was in existence, at a cost of $250,000 per year to taxpayers, the United States saw some of the worst policy decisions ever taken on endangered and threatened wildlife.

The case our coalition brought challenged the IWCC’s legality because its members had a clear bias and were not acting in the public interest by promoting the trophy hunting of threatened and endangered species like elephants, lions, leopards and rhinos. Moreover, the panel unlawfully met behind closed doors, shutting authentic conservationists and other stakeholders out of important discussions and giving self-interested IWCC panel members all the freedom they needed to grease the wheels for their own ends.

There’s a lesson to be learned from the history of this terrible panel, rightly disbanded in response to our actions and complaints. Trophy hunting is on the decline around the world, by many indications, but the lobbies that support this gruesome pastime are forever on the lookout for opportunities to influence those in power and bring back bad practices. And we must engage them each and every time to stop them in their tracks.

Fortunately, Congress is also moving against trophy hunting. The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, H.R. 2245, introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., would substantially restrict the import and export of trophies of any species listed or proposed to be listed under the Endangered Species Act and prohibit the import of elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. The Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act, H.R. 4804, introduced by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Pete King, R-N.Y., would prohibit trophy hunting of ESA-listed species in the United States and the import of any trophy of a species listed under the ESA.

American trophy hunters kill more endangered and threatened animals around the world than hunters from any other country. That’s why the Humane Society Legislative Fund lobbied key congressional members and encouraged our constituents to weigh in against the continuation of the flawed IWCC. We’re now pushing for the CECIL Act and the ProTECT Act to become law, and you can help by calling your members of Congress. Ask them to support these important bills so the world’s wildlife, already under threat because of climate change, habitat degradation and poaching, gets a reprieve from the completely unnecessary threat of trophy hunting.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Marilyn Colecchia says:

    Stop this

  2. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Esto no puede pasar no es justo que los animalitos sufran sólo por diversión de los seres humanos

  3. Brenda Torres says:

    Thank you for stopping this atrocious activity wish you could get the protections back for wolves mountain lions bears that are under threat in the West after trump has gutted everything so he can profit from actions like the one in arizona or new Mexico where the mining conglomerate got the desert land to dump their mining waste and destroy all that wild life

  4. MaryCarol abercrombie says:

    Make the Protect Act law !!!!

  5. Ian Giles says:

    Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club are openly bribing African governments like Namibia and Botswana to allow hunting. These hunt clubs are not charities and should not be 501c non profit . Our taxes are supporting bribery, corruption and death.

  6. Carmen says:

    I hope the law goes into affect asap

  7. Kathleen says:

    Vote Trump and All Republicans out!!!

  8. Jerry says:

    This is AWESOME NEWS! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I can’t stand the IWCC! A bunch are self centered rotten turds.

  9. Karen says:

    Thank you. How can we help?

  10. Daniel O'Brien says:

    Thank you for saving the wildlife from these. Terrible Trophy Hunters that are causing a mess to the environment. I care a lot about keeping endangered species protected even if they are not endangered. And the Trump Administration We’re very bad To the environment because they don’t understand the protection. That plants and animals need. They all should be ashamed of themselves including Trump for trying to gut protections

  11. Bonnie Spielman says:

    This seems to be good news. Hope it becomes law. And hope tRump doesn’t find out about it because I suspect he will stop it or try to.

  12. Michael Eastep says:

    It would be a victory to get any such legislation through even one house in Congress, and it is much needed. I applaud your efforts. But, I’m certain it will be in vain, at least at present. Trump would veto any such bill, and the Senate has proven that they will never vote to over-ride any veto of his.

  13. Graceann says:

    I will always save the animals
    No one has this right

  14. Jytte Fredholm Ferreira says:

    This isa great step in the right direction. Big congratulations to this win!!!
    As a wildlife photographer,anti poaching ranger and conservationist in Africa I feel that there is a desperate need to stop imports of all threatened species not only from specific countries. Tanzania might have a low number of elephants and lions for instance ,but if Imports from countries with higher numbers of specific animals are allowed to continue,there is no doubt they will go the same way. There is also a lot of illegal trafficking of animals here on the African continent and it will be very difficult to prove where the imports were killed originally.
    A firm stand must be taken to ban all imports of endangered, threatned or redlisted species no matter which country they come from.

  15. Connie Powell says:

    Thank you for stopping Trump’s horrors. Ryan Zinke was appointed by tRump and of course Trump only picks the most evil people (just like himself) he cares nothing for the planet or our wildlife. Please take a look at what Trump and his cronies are doing to the wild horses, burros and mustangs in our western states, having the BLM cruelly round these innocent wild horses up by scaring them to death chasing them with helicopters, putting them in pens and some of them being sold to kill buyers. Trump is doing this to steal the land for his buddies the welfare ranchers. Please help our wild horses. Thank you.

    • Reality says:

      The wild horses and burrows have been rounded up for over 30 years. They are not more important than the wildlife that they threaten. Please put your money where your mouth is and adopt them if you don’t want the numbers reduced to meet environmental balance. If you want animals protected from “Trophy Hunting”, then again put your money into anti poaching efforts. Words and sentiment don’t equal positive results.

  16. DORIS. SCHWAB says:


  17. Dave OBrien says:

    Finally drained the swamp of, at least, a major collection of SCUM

  18. Elaine Valles says:

    I am a resident of Nevada, I support legislation that bans the import or export of trophy hunted animals. Especially in cases of endangered species.

  19. Colleen Curry says:

    Thank you so much for stopping this trump induced act of killing animals. Between climate change and endangered species being hunted down, our future looks very grim.

  20. Peter Snyman says:

    It’s sad to see so many comments from people that do not know anything about wildlife conservation, I living in Africa and see how areas without legal hunting because of no income from hunting is taken over by poachers that killing all living creatures without selection. Please understand that legal hunting paying for anti-poaching units in Africa ! The legal hunting off take is very small compare to poaching.

  21. Susan Gramenz says:

    Could someone please tell me the other countries that do this?

  22. KMF says:

    This is GREAT news, and very surprising given that both of Trump’s sons like to trophy hunt. Don Jr. just recently killed an endangered sheep in Mongolia with a special rifle at night, while the animal could not even see him. So, what about that?

  23. angela page says:

    killing wild animals is nothing to do with conservation its the lust to kill with the money to do it the animals can look after there seives the weak die the strong survive its life in the wild they dont need the intervention of humans who think they have the right to change natures way they should tell the truth its depraved pleasure they get from killing simple as.

  24. Christina Savary says:

    To me growing up I had hunter in family and I’m friends with hunters. But the respect the laws,land,and animals. They hunt and fish only what they need and when it’s permitted. We need hunters to help because we killed to many predators.It way for them provide easy cheap protein for there family. With that said I’m huge animal lover never could harm or kill any animal. Trophy hunting and poaching is the worst of worst. They kill to kill for sport. They are wasteful and soulless humans. One thing me and hunters can agree on no one likes poachers. No one there not hunters there bad people.

  25. Glenn Beckman says:

    Unfortunately most of the anti hunting crowd are ignorant of how much benifit hunter’s dollars have on wildlife conservation. Example would be the near record number of whitetail deer in the United States that were decimated in the early 1900’s. Licenses and smart regulation, as well as special taxes on hunting and fishing equipment fund and benifit wildlife and conservation as well as parks and recreation for non hunters. The next time you take a walk through a state park, thank a hunter or fisherman. Basically the wildlife are supporting themselves, and the result is more wildlife such as deer and wild turkey. So keep the emotional agruments out of the discussion, and educate yourself on the subject.

    • Richard Stafford says:

      Me. Beckman would do well to “educate” himself on the subject of “trophy” hunting. The hunting of whitetail deer in the US has absolutely nothing to do with the killing of endangered wildlife in Africa. Our state wildlife agencies regulate and manage the hunting of US wildlife in on our state and federal lands. Thank fully organizations such as the Humane Society work to impose regulations on the killing of rare and endangered animals.

  26. linda says:

    It is great that the panel has been shut down. However, in your prepared “Dear Legislator”letter to help pass the ProTECT Act, there is this sentence: “In November 2017, after learning about a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to allow certain imports of elephants and lions from two African countries, President Donald Trump supported putting a hold on the decision, calling trophy hunting of elephants and other animals “a horror show.” How does this square with the appointment of this panel????The panel only bit the dust after the Humane Society lawsuit. Perhaps, in the interest of truth and accuracy, that sentence should be deleted from the prepared letter and the results of the recent lawsuit should be inserted instead.

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