Recently, CAMPFIRE Association (Zimbabwe) and the Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (NCONGO) petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Secretary of the Interior to conform to President Biden’s Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities. This petition requests that the USFWS revise its regulations governing the listing and import of foreign species to “effectively take into account the conservation efforts of range countries and to protect the rights of underserved indigenous or rural communities around the world.”
The USFWS makes decisions regarding the listing and import of foreign species and has the imperative to promote and support range countries and communities as the first conservators of wildlife. In southern Africa in particular, well-managed hunting is a mainstay of national and local conservation efforts. Safari Club International (SCI) stands in strong support of this petition and applauds the effort by CAMPFIRE Association and NCONGO to ensure the USFWS does not hinder their conservation programs, including the well-managed hunting that has protected the world’s largest populations of elephants in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
The benefits of international hunting to species and ecosystem conservation are well-documented and include revenues for habitat protection, anti-poaching efforts, and conservation-centered community empowerment. Because of these contributions, both habitat and wildlife populations are healthiest in the countries where they are hunted. The benefits do not stop at wildlife; communities receive game meat, employment, and funds for social services, just to name a few. These incentives garner essential support from rural communities by providing them with the resources to tolerate often dangerous wildlife and to conserve habitat which could easily be converted to human uses like agriculture and grazing.
Range countries and rural communities have repeatedly explained to the USFWS the importance of well-managed hunting, and the crucial role played by U.S. hunters. American hunters are the largest contributors to the southern African conservation structure: for example, 90% of CAMPFIRE’s revenues come from hunting, with 60% from American hunters. However, the USFWS has listed species, like the African lion, or failed to make import permitting decisions that recognize and facilitate these benefits for range states and communities.
The petition focuses on aligning the USFWS’ regulations with Endangered Species Act (ESA) directives to encourage conservation programs in range states, and with the Executive Order’s focus on addressing racial equity and supporting underserved and indigenous communities across the whole of government.
Despite the best available science and the ESA itself recognizing the benefits generated from international hunting, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council have petitioned the USFWS to ban the import, export, and interstate transport of all wild mammals and birds. This would cripple the African hunting industry and damage the livelihoods of rural communities. These organizations are also exploiting the tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic to request that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) adopt a similar and wide-ranging ban.
SCI is leading the fight against these petitions – add your name in opposition here. Additionally, SCI has joined 35 organizations representing millions of sportsmen and women across the country in letters of strong opposition to these anti-hunting petitions to both the USFWS and the CDC.
Unfortunately, unwarranted attacks on well-managed hunting do not stop at interest groups – Washington politicians are also trying to dictate the management of African wildlife at the expense of range states indigenous communities. The House of Representatives recently passed the Interior Appropriations bill, including Section 436, which tries to ban the import of sport hunted elephants or lions from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Zambia. Should this provision become law, it will undoubtedly impair the livelihoods of African communities. The House was not misinformed – the Zambian and Zimbabwean Ambassadors sent a compelling letter to House leadership describing the injustice of Section 436, which was totally ignored. Secretary of the Interior Debra Haaland must not commit the same offense and side against Africans, hunting, conservation, and wildlife.
The management of African wildlife is a right that belongs to Africans, and the USFWS has a serious obligation to support range states in their conservation efforts. The USFWS, interest groups, and the general public should promote African leadership and proven conservation strategies globally. SCI will always stand First for Hunters and continue to support the CAMPFIRE Association and NCONGO in their efforts.