By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
The Trump administration’s course on wildlife policy, riddled with handouts to trophy hunters, took another wrong turn last week with the hiring of Anna Seidman, a litigator for Safari Club International, to head a key office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The SCI is one of the world’s largest trophy hunting industry groups, with members who kill hundreds of animals fast disappearing from earth each year and then import their heads and hides back to the United States and other nations to decorate their homes. As director of the SCI’s legal advocacy and international affairs arm until last year, Seidman spent 20 years working to make this carnage possible, by fighting U.S. laws and agency decisions that prohibit the killing of at-risk and endangered animals.
Among other things, she led numerous lawsuits against the USFWS and other federal agencies, including one challenging a 2014 ban on the import of elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and 2015 and 2016 Obama-era regulations that prohibited cruel predator control tactics in national preserves and refuges in Alaska.
Now, as assistant director of the USFWS’s international affairs program, Seidman will lead a team responsible for implementing international conservation treaties and protecting at-risk wildlife populations and their habitats around the globe at the very agency whose policies she opposed.
Talk of the fox guarding the henhouse.
Seidman is completely unsuited for a job in which she’ll get to decide our nation’s wildlife policy on behalf of millions of American citizens who detest trophy hunting. But more disturbingly, her appointment offers further evidence of just how deep the nexus is between the Department of the Interior and trophy hunting interests.
Although the president himself has decried trophy hunting as a “horror show,” his professed disgust has not reflected even remotely in the choices his administration has made since 2017.
Ryan Zinke, the first secretary of the Department of the Interior named by Trump, was an avid trophy hunter himself, as is current Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Zinke created the International Wildlife Conservation Council, a panel made up almost exclusively of trophy hunting and gun lobby interests, to advise the administration on its global wildlife policy. The IWCC was dissolved last year because of a lawsuit we filed.
In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would lift an Obama-era ban on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zambia. In 2019, the USFWS announced it would make all trophy import decisions without public input and issued an import permit for a lion trophy from Tanzania for the first time 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.
Last year, the administration gutted the Endangered Species Act, making it harder to grant and maintain federal protections for species that are fighting for survival.
Now, Seidman’s appointment sends a pretty clear signal that U.S. wildlife policy for species here and abroad will continue to be made not with the interests of endangered and at-risk animals in mind, but for the benefit of trophy hunters who like to kill for fun.
Luckily for the animals and the Americans who care about them, we’re doing something about it.
We took on the IWCC and shut it down; we’re suing the Trump administration over its rollbacks to the ESA; we intervened in a lawsuit to protect native carnivores on federal lands in Alaska; and we are challenging trophy import decisions by the USFWS. There is no justification for the administration and its appointees to allow a few outliers with deep pockets to hijack our nation’s wildlife policy for personal gain, and we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to defend the world’s wildlife against this torrent of threats.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.