On Monday, two environmental groups announced their decision to sue the Trump administration for policies he recently announced. Trump decided to allow the import of trophy hunted animals, such as elephants and lions, from Africa, reversing a ban enacted by the Obama administration.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed their case against the Trump administration in Washington D.C. in federal court, calling out the legality behind the president’s decision.
The suit argues that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) violated the Endangered Species Act when it made the decision to lift the ban and allow big-game hunters to import the remains of elephants and lions hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Though hunting game is legal in these two countries, the Obama-era policies made it illegal to purchase the animal remains, in an effort to hurt the trophy hunting industry and support conservation.
The Center for Biological Diversity released a statement Monday by senior attorney Tanya Sanerib stating:
‘This is horrific news for Africa’s rapidly vanishing elephants, and the Trump administration’s timing couldn’t be more bizarre.’
Sanerib continued by saying:
‘Corruption was already a huge concern in Zimbabwe, and it’s shocking that Zinke is lifting the trophy ban during a military coup. With tanks in the streets, whoever is actually running the Zimbabwe government just can’t be trusted to protect elephants from slaughter by poachers.’
The Trump administration’s decision has already received bipartisan backlash, including criticism from House Foreign Affairs Committee chair California Republican Ed Royce. CNBC reported on on Friday that Royce slammed Trump in saying, “elephants and other big game in Africa are blood currency for terrorist organizations, and they are being killed at an alarming rate… Zimbabwe is in economic and political crisis. I have zero confidence that the regime – which for years has promoted corruption at the highest levels – is properly managing and regulating conservation programs.”
President Trump has already doubled down on his decision to reverse the policy. In one Tweet posted Friday, the president announced his decision to put the trophy reversal on hold, and that he would make an official decision later in time.
Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2017
On Sunday, the president again tweeted about the gaming decision, stating that although he has not finalized any action to be taken, changing his mind would be “hard pressed” as he believes importing gaming trophies have little to do with conservation efforts.
Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017
These tweets, however, have not deterred the CBD nor the NRDC. Elly Pepper, the deputy director of wild trade at the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued a statement on Monday saying that Trump putting gaming imports on hold is “simply not enough.”
Pepper continued: “the positive enhancement finding the Trump Administration made for Zimbabwe’s elephants would remain in effect, allowing the President to quietly begin issuing elephant trophy permits under the decision in the future… If, however, President Trump is actually going to revoke the positive enhancement finding, which could be a possibility given today’s tweet, it would be a huge win. But we need to hold his feet to the fire to ensure he does that until that happens.”
Tanya Sanerib furthered this sentiment in a CBD statement, and ensured environmental advocated that “the Trump administration’s decision to greenlight the slaughter of this imperiled species is absolutely unacceptable, and we’ll fight it every way we can.”