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Connecticut State Senate Holds Hearing on Hijacking Wildlife Management Decisions

Yesterday, the Connecticut State Senate Committee on the Environment convened for hearings on several bills, including legislation that would ban the import, sale, and transport of African elephants, lions, leopards, giraffes, black rhinos, and white rhinos, including hunting trophies. Disingenuous attempts like this to “save” African wildlife will actually inhibit conservation efforts and bankrupt local communities. A vote on the legislation has yet to be determined.

Similar legislation was introduced in Connecticut last year, but SCI members and a coalition of partners prevented the ban from gaining momentum. SCI’s Government Affairs team again submitted written testimony in opposition to the bill that outlined several critical concerns. Most notably, the bill contradicts scientific research compiled by wildlife experts across the African continent, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the U.S. Government, and Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), among others. That research reveals that hunting generates incentives that protect habitat, reduce poaching, and encourage local stakeholders to participate in conserving these species.

The written testimony also emphasized African countries’ desire to maintain the flexibility to use hunting as part of their management strategies for these species. It underlined some of the conservation success stories in Africa that have been funded primarily through hunting-related revenue. And, SCI’s testimony highlighted the bill would be unenforceable if signed into law because it would be preempted by the federal Endangered Species Act, which means the state would likely expend personnel resources defending a law that so obviously violates federal statute.

“Hunting plays a huge role in species conservation both in the United States and abroad,” said Cyrus Baird, SCI’s Manager of Government Relations. “This legislation does nothing to protect the species in question and only seeks to harm law-abiding hunters in Connecticut and the citizens of the African range countries it claims to help.” In addition to the written testimony, Baird also virtually testified live before the committee.

With state legislatures around the country back in session, more misguided attempts to hijack wildlife management decisions from experts on the ground in Africa are expected to pop up soon. A federal trophy ban is also expected to be reintroduced in the House of Representatives this year.

Trophy bans perfectly exemplify the conflict between emotional falsehoods and scientific and economic facts as they apply to wildlife conservation and management. Economic and scientific data insist that international hunting is a vital part of the conservation equation in Africa. African leaders routinely plead for American politicians to either educate themselves or stop meddling in their affairs. However, many elected officials in the U.S. prefer to feed their own egos instead of ensuring rural Africans have the means to provide for their families.

Unfortunately, these legislative attempts to ban trophy imports are not going anywhere. Fortunately, SCI has a proven track record of fighting back against these nefarious attempts, notably previous success thwarting such a ban in California just last year and stifling momentum for a Congressional trophy ban.

To prevent further trophy bans from gaining momentum this year, SCI will again look to amplify the voices of those who share concerns about international trophy importation bans. Providing a source of reliable information on the value of international hunting has also been a major priority for SCI’s Hunt the Facts campaign, which includes a full library of videos, scientific papers, op-eds, and more from wildlife conservation experts and government officials from Africa detailing the very real concerns they share about trophy importation bans.

If you’re a Connecticut resident, text CT TROPHY to 73075 to let your state Senator know that you oppose this bill. If you’re a hunter, then make sure you text SCI to 73075 to sign up for our Hunter Advocacy Action Center so you can receive alerts next time  SCI needs your engagement to help protect the freedom to hunt and protect wildlife conservation worldwide.

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