This week, Safari Club International’s legal staff sent a letter to Connecticut Senate leadership highlighting several deficiencies in the recently completed legal and fiscal analyses of Senate Bill 925, legislation to ban the import and possession of commonly hunted species from Africa.
After passing the Joint Environment Committee 32-8 on March 12th, the legislation was sent to the Legislative Commissioner’s Office, a commission designed to give nonpartisan legal counsel to the members of the Connecticut General Assembly, for a legal and fiscal review. Both analyses failed to take in to account the federal Endangered Species Act and how that would impact the legislation if enacted.
This legislation would preempt the Endangered Species Act, a similar argument SCI has conveyed to state legislatures in the past, including to California lawmakers regarding the Iconic African Species Protection Act in California in 2020, a bill that was successfully defeated.
Residents in Connecticut and the Connecticut legislature can be assured that passage of SB 925 will result in litigation to declare the law unenforceable with respect to the import and subsequent possession of lawful hunting trophies and enacting this bill will result in litigation—and litigation costs, which would be paid by Connecticut taxpayers.
In 2016, the New Jersey legislature enacted an almost-identical law to SB 925, which prohibited the possession, import, and export of African elephants, leopards, lions, and black and white rhinos. The State of New Jersey was immediately sued, and the state Attorney General argued that the law was enforceable, and New Jersey was forced to concede that the law was preempted by federal law.
In testimony opposing SB 925, SCI emphasized the detrimental impact that this legislation will have on conservation programs in southern Africa. Contrary to representations by the bill’s supporters, the species at issue are healthiest in the very countries where they are hunted and subject to lawful international trade. It is documented fact that the world’s largest populations of African elephant, leopard, lion, black and white rhino, and giraffe inhabit Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—the countries with regulated hunting programs that generate income and other incentives and result in more secure habitat and lower rates of poaching. In addition, these countries have developed successful conservation programs to encourage the rural communities who live side-by-side with wildlife to invest and protect these species, instead of competing with them.
African countries and rural communities have repeatedly spoken out against restrictions on the import and possession of their wildlife. These countries and communities have described the costs they will incur in terms of lost income for conservation and reduced livelihood benefits if such restrictions are widely adopted.
Simply put, Senate Bill 925 is an unconstitutional, costly, and detrimental bill for wildlife and rural people in southern Africa and should be opposed.