On April 25, the Legal Advocacy team met with several people from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Executive Office of the President, the Department of the Interior Executive Secretary’s office, and the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding a proposed rule to reinstate restrictions on the import of threatened-listed species. The summary for the proposed rule states that it has no “International Impacts.” SCI requested the meeting to highlight the significant international impacts that would inevitably come from reinstating these restrictions.
The Endangered Species Act contains certain prohibitions for activities involving endangered species including prohibitions on import without a permit, but the ESA does not contain similar language for threatened species. For threatened species, the ESA empowers the Secretary of the Interior to make regulations that are “necessary and advisable” for the conservation of the species. The Fish and Wildlife Service took a short cut and extended the same prohibitions as for endangered species to all threatened species, unless a separate rule governs import of that species. The Trump Administration withdrew this “blanket 4(d) rule,” and the current Administration is planning to reinstate it.
During the OIRA meeting, SCI’s Legal Advocacy team explained that the Unified Agenda page for this proposal is wrong, because it states that the proposal has “no” “International Impacts.” The proposal would ultimately restrict the import of foreign species and the conservation funding that is generated by international hunting. The “blanket 4(d) rule” would impose a regulatory burden on the wildlife authorities of foreign range countries. SCI used the example of wood bison and a few other species to drive home this point and provided a handout explaining our concerns. These OIRA meetings are described as “listening sessions” and, true to that name, there were no questions from any of the federal attendees. The Legal Advocacy team will continue to follow the progression of this proposed rule and provide further information as necessary.