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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/2/15

Lay Cecil the Lion to Rest on the White House Lawn

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Reprinted from Reader Supported News

Cecil the lion
Cecil the lion
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Daughter#3, Author: Daughter#3)
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Blame for the death of Cecil the Lion lies squarely with the U.S. government. For decades, the White House and its conservation agencies have turned a blind eye to the well-being of wildlife in North America and around the world. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that inaction would lead to their endangerment and often extinction.

The Fish and Wildlife Service Is Investigating

From Laury Parramore, damage control specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Cecil the Lion."

Sounds like the FWS is keeping busy on this, but the fact that lions in the wild have been critically endangered and face total extinction in less than perhaps as little as 40 years has been well known to the FWS for decades.

In searching for the truth, the Fish and Wildlife Service might well investigate itself. As recently as October 2014, the FWS rejected Endangered Species status for African lions, saying that sport-hunting was "not found to be a threat to the species at this time." The Safari Club International (SCI) was ecstatic. Their headline called the ruling a "Major Setback for Anti-Hunting Efforts!"

SCI has now apparently suspended the membership of Dr. Walter J. Palmer and his professional hunting guide, Theo Bronkhorst, over the killing of Cecil, according to its story headlined "SCI Suspends Membership of Hunter and Professional Hunter Involved in Death of Cecil."

The FWS is now apparently reconsidering the same proposal to list African lions as endangered that it rejected last year -- but it's the FWS, so there's a major, politically motivated loophole. Hunters would still be allowed to import trophy kills as long as the country in which the lion is killed sustainably manages its lion population. Sorry, Son of Cecil, looks like you will face the same fate your father did. Walter Palmer would be free to kill again and again, as long as the host country kept its certification up to date.

Sustainability is a recurring theme in Safari Club position statements. Articulated well here:

"Given the outstanding efforts of African governments in creating and maintaining protected strongholds for a large majority of the lion population, it is doubtful that the Service will be able to defend its conclusion that the lion is threatened with extinction in the foreseeable future."

While that statement appears to oppose the efforts of the FWS, the SCI should not have been so concerned. In the great tradition of Obama-era regulation, industry leads and the government follows.

The FWS appears to have adopted the rationale of the SCI rather than make an independent stand. The killing of Cecil demonstrates the margin for abuse when a special class of killing is sanctioned by law. "It's okay as long as certain criteria are met." The danger is that men like Bronkhorst and Palmer are free to interpret compliance on the fly as they aim their rifles, or cross bows, as the case may be.

A stronger stand from the FWS is needed. If lions are endangered, protect them -- no caveats, no loopholes. And arguably greater and more urgent action by the FWS is needed to confront the ivory trade.

A Clue from FWS Director Dan Ashe

H. Ronald Pulliam, former director of the National Biological Service under Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, reported in July of 2014 on a roundtable discussion that he had attended at which FWS Director Dan Ashe spoke. Pulliam's remarks on what was said:

"I just stepped out of a small roundtable discussion with, among others, Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Director Ashe told the small group that he sees a 'giant clash' between those who favor conservation and those who favor economic development and that he believes that conservationists 'must accept a world with fewer wolves, salmon, and spotted owls.' The Director of the very agency most responsible for protecting the nation's biodiversity went on to say that, in the name of compromise, we must accept 'a world with less biodiversity.'"

Director Ashe did respond for this article to Dr. Pulliam's report, saying, "No. The words that Dr. Pulliam puts in quotes are not mine." Ashe then goes on to offer context remarks that do more to support Pulliam's characterizations of his positions than undermine them. Launching into a long-winded recitation of the effects of man on the wild and embracing the limitations of what can be done by the FWS to mitigate those effects:

"We have to look landowners, business owners, mayors, governors and others in the eye and tell them that their ambitions must be tailored in order to leave enough on the table to allow a species to survive. We get bruised and bloodied. But that's our job, and we reap the rewards of knowing we are in the fight, and achieving results for species and the ecosystems on which they depend. And of course, those are the same ecosystems that humans depend upon. Others get the luxury to sit in ivory towers and on environmental or corporate boards, express their umbrage or outrage and issue judgment. That's a different competition."

However, the apparent reality is that all too often the FWS looks those "landowners, business owners, mayors, governors" in the eye and tells them that their ambitions will be adopted as policy or law.

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Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, now the founder, editor and publisher of Reader Supported News: http://www.readersupportednews.org

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