Ranking Member Grijalva Introduces Endangered Species Protection Bill as GOPers Gear Up for “Wipeout Wednesday” Anti-ESA Hearing

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today introduced the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act, a bill that restricts the importation of African lions and other sport-hunted species that have been proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The move comes a day before the Committee’s Republican majority plans to hold a hearing on nine separate bills that would weaken the ESA and the public’s ability to hold conservation agencies accountable for the law’s enforcement.

Among other measures, tomorrow’s hearing will feature a bill by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) requiring the Interior Secretary and Commerce Secretary to notify and consult with a “chief executive” of each county and state in which a species proposed for ESA listing “is located” – a particularly impractical requirement for species like the whooping crane, which regularly travels from state to state and county to county. The hearing will also feature a bill by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) allowing the secretaries to declare a “petition backlog” that would allow federal agencies to suspend the processing of further listing petitions, denying protections for imperiled species without any public or judicial review.

The nine bills expected at tomorrow’s hearing were initially introduced as a package in July by the Congressional Western Caucus. They represent just a fraction of the more than 100 bills, amendments, and policy riders Republicans have introduced this Congress to remove or block ESA protections for individual species or to weaken important provisions of the law that promote sustainable economic development and provide for public oversight of the law’s enforcement.

Beyond Republicans’ legislative attempts to weaken the law, the Trump administration recently released proposed rules that would inject inappropriate economic analyses into the science-based species listing process and prevent threatened species from automatically receiving protections.

“This is the whole industry wish list in one sitting,” Grijalva said today. “If these bills become law, the Endangered Species Act will cease to exist and we’ll look back on Sept. 26 as Wipeout Wednesday. Democrats want to shrink the endangered species list by returning these species to full health; Republicans seem to want to shrink the list by letting endangered species die.”

Grijalva’s newly introduced bill is a successor to one he introduced in 2015, shortly after the notorious killing of Cecil the Lion just outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Despite that event catalyzing public opinion in favor of restrictions on trophy hunting imports, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has loosened trophy hunting standards, prioritized weakened ESA enforcement and founded the widely criticized International Wildlife Conservation Council, an official Interior Department advisory body dominated by spokespeople from the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International and other anti-conservation groups.

The bill introduced today:

  • Amends the ESA to treat species proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered as though they have already been listed for the purposes of trophy hunting import licensing, prohibiting unpermitted take or trade of species proposed to be listed. Strengthening the ESA in this way would prevent the rush to take animal trophies before a listing is finalized, such as the one that happened when polar bears were proposed to be listed as threatened in 2008;
  • Requires that any wildlife imports to the U.S. enhance the conservation of the species;
  • Directs the Government Accountability Office to identify what evidence, if any, exists to support the idea that trophy hunting in foreign countries contributes to wildlife conservation – the basis for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) “enhancement findings” necessary to permit a trophy hunt – and recommend reforms for the industry based on its findings;
  • Requires trophy importers to cover the full costs of the FWS trophy hunting import program, a measure based on a report by Committee Democrats finding that American taxpayers subsidize 92 percent of the program’s costs;
  • Strengthens language in the ESA mandating public notice in the Federal Register when an exemption or permit application for endangered or threatened species has been filed;
  • Terminates the Trump administration’s International Wildlife Conservation Council, a move foreshadowed when Grijalva and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) led a letter to Secretary Zinke opposing its creation and demanding the council’s termination.

The full list of CECIL Act cosponsors – all Democrats – is below.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (Mass.)

Rep. Jackie Speier (Calif.)

Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.)

Rep. Brendan Boyle (Pa.)

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.)

Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (Calif.)

Rep. Mike Quigley (Ill.)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.)

Rep. Susan DelBene (Wash.)

Rep. Niki Tsongas (Mass.)

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (Calif.)

Rep. Matt Cartwright (Pa.)

Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.)

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (Ill.)

Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.)

Rep. Julia Brownley (Calif.)

Rep. Susan A. Davis (Calif.)

Rep. Mark Pocan (Wisc.)

Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (Va.)

Rep. Denny Heck (Wash.)

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