By Paul Babaz, President, Safari Club International
As President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke continue to affirm their commitment to sportsmen, true conservationists are proud to stand with them and advocate for hunters nationwide. Safari Club International is working to strengthen our role in hunter advocacy and our members are returning to Capitol Hill this week to speak with members of Congress about legislation important to sportsmen. This year’s visit also marks our organization’s recent move of its headquarters to Washington, D.C. With this move, we will take a more visible lead in wildlife conservation policy discussions year-round.
Our nearly 50,000 members and 200 chapters are consistently engaged at the local, state, and national levels; and through our Hunter Advocacy Department, we work with decision-makers across the America, and around the globe, to develop and communicate positions on laws or regulations affecting hunting. Through these efforts, and the valuable work of the SCI Foundation, we strive to promote safe, legal and ethical hunting and work to educate the public on the importance of hunting and sustainable-use conservation.
During the last year, we have been encouraged by the Trump Administration’s Department of Interior (DOI) and their commitment to increasing access to public lands and lifting barriers to hunting and sport-shooting erected during the previous administration. Hunting is a part of America’s heritage and the lynchpin to wildlife conservation. We proudly share the administration’s conviction that regulated hunting must be protected and encouraged for future generations.
In addition to support from the executive branch, we are also encouraged by many on Capitol Hill who are promoting policies to benefit sportsmen. Conserving habitat and protecting species is critical, and we are proud to see members of Congress on both sides of the aisle support these goals in their proposals.
Among the many noteworthy pro-hunting bills is H.R. 2603, the Saving America’s Vulnerable Endangered Species Act (SAVES Act). This legislation would end the listing of species not native to the United States, giving range countries, especially in Africa, recognition for historic successes in their use of hunting to conserve wildlife native to their continent.
We are also very encouraged by the many bills introduced to modernize the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA), which after 45 years has had little demonstrable success. While the government has listed 2,105 species, only 28 have been removed because of recovery.
S.935 and H.R. 2134 address two of ESA’s most troubling flaws: the nearly non-existent role of the states in listing decisions and the extreme difficulty delisting species even after solid evidence of recovery. These bills create a role for listing decisions by state governors and a process for delisting after five years.
Another effort to address the outmoded ESA is the bipartisan effort to delist Western Great Lakes (WGL) wolves. S. 164 and H.R. 424 direct the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reissue their 2011 regulation to delist the WGL wolves. Congress must send a clear message that the ESA is not designed to be a permanent home to listed species and that recovery must result in delisting.
Our members are also working to amend and modernize the Antiquities Act of 1906 through S. 33, the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act; S. 132, the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act of 2017; and H.R. 3990, the National Monument Creation and Protection Act. These bills add congressional approval or state involvement in the establishment of proposed National Monuments. As we have seen firsthand through the Bear Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante modification, the involvement of duly elected officials is essential to protecting our nation’s heritage. We applaud the strong efforts by Secretary Zinke to restructure designations, and we encourage Congress to spell out clear limits in law and mandate state involvement to bind future administrations.
As sportsmen, we look forward to working with Congress and the administration to ensure that our nation’s most precious resources are protected and our country’s hunting heritage is secure. We have made great strides already, but we must continue to push forward and fight for America’s sportsmen.
Paul Babaz is the President of Safari Club International (SCI).