The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has a lot on their plate, doing many things related to fish and wildlife at the national and international level. However, when it comes to endangered species, and basic principles of hunting, USFWS folks sitting in offices in Washington, D.C., don’t always get it right. In fact, in some very important situations, they get it wrong.
Example. Listing a species as ‘endangered’ may well inhibit its conservation. Take the wood bison for example. There are viable wood bison populations north of our border, and regulated hunting would create jobs and revenues that would enhance those populations. But you cannot bring them into the country because we have them listed as ‘endangered’. They are not endangered and there is sufficient data to support that.
Our fish and wildlife folks are mandated by law to review such listings every five years, but they didn’t do that for the wood bison. I don’t know why. There are down listing deadlines in the endangered species act, but the USFWS missed those, either on purpose or from neglect. Fortunately there is an organization, Conservation Force, run by the best wildlife-related-issues attorney in the business (John Jackson) that follows up on such things on behalf of hunters. He filed a law suit against the USFWS in June 2010 to move the wood bison down listing along.
It has been a long legal battle to get the feds moving. However, this legal action prompted (finally) the feds to review the data (something that should have been done long ago, as mandated by law), and in February 2011, the USFWS filed a notice to change the wood bison status from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’. Finally.
This example is so typical of the FWS approach out of Washington, D.C. Understand that when you import trophies from Africa or other foreign hunting territories, you need to have CITES paper work. Those responsible for shipping your trophies must fill out the paper work, and in the past, if there was a clerical error (even a typo), the USFWS would reject the shipment, but allow you to re-export the shipment, so the error could be corrected. However, that has changed.
If there is any error in paper work, the feds seize your trophies, and you do not get them. Remember. This isn’t your error. It’s the error of the guide, professional hunter, taxidermist, or shipper at the other end. No matter, you never get the trophies. You hunted and harvested the animals legally, but they are seized due to an error made somewhere, and you never get those animals, horns, or whatever. There is a great editorial on this in the latest Sports Afield magazine. This magazine died several years ago, but has been resurrected and I find it to be a bright light compared to some of the old standard magazines such as Outdoor Life or Field and Stream. Great information and stories on international hunting. This editorial summarizes the trophy importation problem. It notes that John Jackson at Conservation Force has put together a check list for your hunting operator and your shipper, which will help to insure that your trophies do not end up being the permanent property of the USFWS. If going to a foreign country, you should print copies for all involved in importing your trophies.
As you know, you now cannot import polar bear trophies into the United States. However, some hunters took polar bears before they were deemed ‘endangered’ (which they aren’t in most places), but the hides and skulls had not yet entered the country. Guess what? Those trophies were denied entry. What sense does this make? None, and that is the problem in some of these international hunting situations. The USFWS doesn’t use common sense in making their decisions. Go to the Conservation Force website www.conservationforce.org, and you can review situation after situation where common sense is thrown out the window by the USFWS.
Why does this happen? I believe that part of the problem lies in the fact that some employees in the DC offices are not hunters, are urban-raised with no idea how hunting plays into the conservation of species, including those that are threatened. The result is that decisions are made that work against the conservation of some species. It’s happened with wood bison, polar bears, Argali sheep, straight-horned markhor, African lion, Mozambique elephants, and other species. Go to the Conservation Force website and read the details.
Of course, the USFWS is doing some positive things. For example, they are valiantly attempting to get the wolf down listed from the endangered species list so that western states, and midwestern states, can manage the wolf. They are also attempting to get the grizzly bear down listed as well. Those legal battles in District Courts thwart proper wildlife management that in the end would benefit wolves and grizzlies, and the critters they eat.
The job of the feds is not easy, but in some instances, they get it wrong. So what? Well, getting it wrong has serious negative impacts on the conservation of the species involved. That sounds like the exact opposite of what this federal agency should be doing. In those cases, the USFWS personnel need to get back to simple, basic, common sense solutions rather than hammer hunters, who are the true conservationists in these situations.