By Joe Mullin, New England States Coordinator
On May 24, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) joined forces with several in-state and national sportsmen and conservation organizations in providing Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont with a letter of opposition to Senate Bill 20 (SB 20), “An Act Prohibiting the Import, Sale and Possession of African Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros and Giraffes.”
The bill’s sweeping restrictions would result in curbing wildlife conservation, hindering anti-poaching efforts, and simultaneously depriving rural communities of vital hunting-generated tourism dollars. Licensed, regulated safari hunting revenue is the single most important source of funding for conservation and anti-poaching efforts in Africa. In many Southern and Eastern African countries, revenues generated from licensed, regulated hunting are the primary source of management, conservation, and anti-poaching funds for national wildlife authorities. These hunting programs have been designed by experts to allow a limited, sustainable offtake, and to generate funds for conservation, anti-poaching, and community incentives. In Southern and Eastern Africa, the recovery of “Big 5” populations can be credited to this system.
Legislation such as SB 20 is nothing new. In 2016, New Jersey passed Senate Bills 977 and 978, specifically targeting lawfully harvested hunting trophies and banning the importation and possession of items from “Big 5” species by New Jersey residents. In July 2016, Conservation Force and several partners filed a lawsuit to enjoin the recently passed legislation, arguing that the new ban was preempted by Section 6(f) of the Endangered Species Act. Ironically, the defendants conceded that the legislation could not be enforced against federally authorized or permitted imports. On August 2016, Federal District Court Judge Wolfson entered a judgment against the State, thus overturning the importation and possession ban on items from the “Big 5” species.
The legal precedent offered in New Jersey’s case is that state-level legislation that is preempted by federal law can and should be vetoed by the acting governor, lest the state is openly availing itself to future suit. New Jersey has given us the facts, arguments, rules, and opinions. Whether Connecticut complies with the rule of law will come down to Gov. Lamont’s choice to veto this bill should it reach his desk.
CSF and the numerous organizations who have co-signed this letter are calling for Gov. Lamont to use his veto authority, should he be presented with SB 20.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?