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Kristol, Trippi Group Pushes Back Against Trump on Big-Game Hunting Trophies

zimbabwe elephants

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan coalition fighting to save elephants filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Interior in a quest for transparency about the Trump administration's elephant trophy import ban policy reversal.

In a November statement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service argued that the imports from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe and Zambia, backed by the Safari Club International, was in the name of conservation.

“Like us, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other African countries are passionate about conserving their wildlife for future generations. This commitment is shared by the U.S. hunting community that has done so much for the conservation of wildlife here in America and around the world,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan. “Funds generated by U.S. hunters are the backbone of conservation efforts in Africa, helping combat the scourge of poaching and wildlife trafficking that is threatening Africa’s wildlife. We will continue work to combat heinous wildlife crimes while empowering and incentivizing local communities to be a part of the solution.”

FWS then issued the new rule in the Federal Register: "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has made a finding that the killing of African elephant trophy animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant."

After initial outrage, Trump tweeted, "Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!" Trump's sons are big-game hunters who have posed with animals they've slaughtered.

But on March 1, the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a memorandum on “Withdrawal of Certain Finding for ESA-listed Specific Taken as Sport-hunted trophies." Trophy imports from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia will now be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, as sought by the Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association.

The Elephant Project, which brings together Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi on its advisory board, announced today that their FOIA request asks for "all documents relating to the establishment of the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), announced on November 8, 2017 by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and documents relating to the involvement by President Donald J. Trump and members of his family, including Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, in the selection of members of the IWCC and the reversal of the Fish and Wildlife Service policy on importation of elephant trophies."

The IWCC's mission statement says the council would "develop a plan for public engagement and education on the benefits of international hunting" and "recommend removal of barriers to the importation into the United States of legally hunted wildlife."