On August 15th, a D.C. federal district court agreed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and SCI that Humane Society International (HSI) was not entitled to information about the identity of hunters who imported and exported trophies to and from the U.S. HSI sued when the FWS refused to disclose the names of importers and exporters of animals between 2002 and 2014 in response to HSI’s Freedom of Information Act requests. The request involved the identities of over 12,000 importer and exporters.
After HSI sued the FWS for refusing to disclose the identities of importers and exporters, the FWS published a notice in the Federal Register, giving individuals who had submitted 3-177 Forms a limited window of time to submit objections to the disclosure. SCI’s attorneys, realizing how few would see the notice, sent word of the notice to all SCI members and to other hunting organizations. SCI’s notice contained information to assist hunters in filing their objections. In great part due to SCI’s efforts, 1,429 individuals filed objections and the FWS continued to withhold the identities of those who submitted objections.
SCI then took the next step to protect its members’ privacy rights and intervened in the case to defend the FWS’s refusal to disclose importers and exporters’ identities.
In its ruling, the federal court agreed with the FWS and SCI that hunter/importers and exporters should be entitled to their privacy. “These individuals have an interest in keeping their names from being disclosed to the public alongside the details of their private activity importing or exporting wildlife.” The court also wrote: “Simply because these individuals have decided to engage in a regulated activity does not mean they have no privacy interest in the information they must provide the government in connection with that activity.” The court also found that HSI did not demonstrate a public interest in the disclosure of the names that outweighed the privacy interests at stake.
From start to finish, SCI protected the privacy interests of its members. We will continue to work with the FWS to make sure hunters/importers/exporters are given the opportunity to protect their privacy when legally hunting wildlife and that anti-hunting groups cannot interfere with those privacy rights.