From Knife Rights On Proposed Ivory Ban

I am a firm believer in conservation. Notice I said conservation and not preservation. Preservation is for artworks; conservation is for land and animals. Locking up a forest makes it susceptible to disease and fire. Likewise, legitimate hunting of elephants and other ivory bearing animals gives them an economic value. With an economic value comes protection and anti-poaching initiatives. I may never hunt an elephant but I recognize that both the numbers and herd health will be helped by hunting.

Banning the trade in ivory legitimately brought into the United States in the 20th century will do nothing to stop current poachers. If anything, it will increase the economic reward to poachers. It is akin to the so-called war on drugs. Efforts to dry up supply just increase the street price of cocaine, meth, etc. and increase the incentive to the cartels to try and smuggle it into the country.

The comments on the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal close on Monday. I sent my comment in today. Here is what Knife Rights has to say about it:

Comments are due on Monday, September 28, 2015, to oppose the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Proposed Rule Change
that would implement a domestic ivory ban affecting millions of
Americans, including owners of ivory-handled knives and knives with
ivory embellishment. With very few very limited exceptions, it would be
illegal to buy, sell or trade any ivory or any item with even the
smallest bit of ivory included. Not a single elephant will be saved by
punishing owners of decades-old perfectly legal ivory that has been in
this country since before import bans were implemented in 1990.
Practically all the poached ivory goes to China or Asian countries,
virtually none of it come to the U.S
. (Click here for additional details on the Proposed Rule Change and a link to the published NPRM)

Rights abhors the poaching of all species. The proven solution is to
attack poaching at the source, not punish lawful ivory owners in the
U.S. who cannot have any effect on poaching in Africa. Successful
anti-poaching programs in Africa have demonstrated that an integrated
comprehensive approach that encourages the locals to fight poaching does
work to save elephants.

the investments of millions of Americans will not save a single
elephant in Africa. This is the worst kind of “Feel Good – Do Bad”
government action.

As of Wednesday, Sept.
23, over 1,500 comments have been submitted. Too many are from people
who make simplistic and emotional statements about saving elephants or
repeat factually unsupported slogans from non-profit organizations
making millions of dollars off this campaign to ban ivory.  However,
many others are thoughtful comments explaining why the proposed rule
punishes innocent Americans without doing anything to stop poaching in
Africa. We need you to add your voice of reason to those opposing this absurd, abusive and illegal ivory ban.

Ideally, your comment should be personal and specific, but comment regardless. 
Form letter comments are not as effective as individual comments, but
regardless, please comment because every comment in opposition counts!
Use the information below to develop your comment.

The Proposed Rule Change is arbitrary and capricious.  It punishes
people who have invested in ivory, including ivory-handled knives and
knives with ivory embellishment, that was legally imported decades ago
which has nothing to do with recent African elephant poaching.

The government should focus resources on stopping poachers in Africa and
prosecuting criminals who smuggle ivory to Asia if it wants to stop
elephant poaching.  Punishing innocent Americans who own or trade ivory
that was legally brought to this country before the poaching crisis has
no rational relationship to poaching African elephants, so the Proposed
Rule Change seriously violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

FWS misrepresented data and studies about ivory in the United States. 
CITES data shows that hundreds of tons of illegal ivory flows to China
and Asia, but almost none of it comes to the United States.
Even Dr. Daniel Stiles, an expert FWS relied upon in the Proposed Rule
Change, submitted a comment pointing out how FWS has misrepresented his
The legal ivory import control system in place before February 2014 was
working in the United States, and government prosecutions show that they
were certainly capable of investigating and successfully prosecuting
the very few people who break the law.  Creating a new class of
criminals from people who need to sell or trade in otherwise legal ivory
will waste resources, distract from enforcement efforts against actual
poachers and smugglers, and unfairly persecute people who abided by
international trade bans that were already in place. Along with creating
bad policy, FWS’s misuse and misrepresentation of data is an egregious
violation of the federal Information Quality Act. (Click here for more background on this blatant violation of the law)

* FWS’s claim that less than 2% of ivory sales will be impacted by this ban is nonsense.  (Here you should describe how the ban would impact your business or collection individually, where applicable.) 
Conclude by stating that this ban falls almost entirely on small
businesses, so the FWS certification in the proposed rule that it would
not have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small
entities as defined under the Regulatory Flexibility Act is false.  As
is their finding under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement
Fairness Act that there is not a disproportionate impact for small or
large businesses.

* The exceptions in the Proposed Rule
are useless and do not adequately allow legal and legitimate commerce as
directed in Executive Order 13648 on Combating Wildlife Trafficking in
July 2013.
  To qualify for any exception, a person would need
to provide documentation about import, sales and transfers that was not
required in the past, so it was never created.  FWS undermines all of
the exceptions, which are irrational, vague and arbitrary in any case,
by placing an unachievable burden on legal ivory owners.  The agency
also fails to describe specific documentation burdens with specificity,
so even if an owner or business has some documentation about an ivory
item, he or she cannot be certain whether documentation is adequate.
These failures are serious violations of the federal Administrative
Procedure Act.

* Add any additional personal objections
to this irrational and abusive rule that is unfair, un-American and will
not save a single elephant in Africa. Please be polite in your comments
so they will be taken seriously. 

Conclude by
demanding that FWS must either withdraw the proposed rule entirely for
its failure to follow the law or, alternatively, at a minimum publish an
extensive revision correcting its many errors for a full new notice and
comment period. Nothing less is acceptable.

The above are suggestions that you can adopt or add to as you see fit.

FWS does not accept comments by e-mail or fax.  You need to submit comments online by 11:59 PM, September 28 at:  Fish
and Wildlife Service (FWS) Proposed Rule: Endangered and Threatened
Wildlife and Plants: African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) Rule;

You can also view comments already submitted at this website. (Alternatively, if that link doesn’t work, then go to Once at the website, search: FWS-HQ-IA-2013-0091) 

on the “Comment Now” button in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
Follow the instructions on screen for submitting comments. When
submitting comments, you can either identify yourself or type
“Anonymous” in the required name fields.  You can type your comments
directly into the provided text box, copy and paste into the text box or
upload a file (below the text box).

If you must submit comments by mail, they must be postmarked by 11:59 PM, September 28. Mail them to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-HQ-IA-2013-0091
Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: BPHC
Falls Church, VA  22041 


This Just Doesn’t Make Sense To Me

This past Thursday the US Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed six tons of illegally-obtained elephant ivory. They destroyed it by running it through a rock crusher at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The six tons of confiscated ivory were accumulated over the last 25 years.

The official purpose for destroying the ivory was “to crack down on international poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking” according to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s release announcing the destruction.

“Rising demand for ivory is fueling a renewed and horrific slaughter of elephants in Africa, threatening remaining populations across the continent,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “We will continue to work aggressively with the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies around the world to investigate, arrest and prosecute criminals who traffic in ivory. We encourage other nations to join us in destroying confiscated ivory stockpiles and taking other actions to combat wildlife crime.”

Some six tons of ivory were pulverized by an industrial rock crusher in front of some of the world’s most influential conservationists. Speakers included U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe; Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President of World Wildlife Fund; Azzedine Downes, CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare; and Paula Kahumbu, Executive Director of WildlifeDirect. Remarks were also provided by Robert Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and Judy Garber, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

“By crushing its contraband ivory tusks and trinkets, the U.S. government sends a signal that it will not tolerate the senseless killing of elephants,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. “Other countries need to join the United States, Gabon, Kenya and the Philippines to take a stand against the crime syndicates behind this slaughter.”

“The destruction of the U.S. ivory stockpile speaks loud and clear to those who value ivory more than saving the elephant species from extinction,” said Downes. “IFAW commends the government’s action that underscores the critical role the United States can play in ending the illegal ivory trade.”

It should be noted that hunting of elephants in certain parts of Africa is 100% legal and that the importation of trophies (including tusks) from these elephants is permitted. Moreover, the importation of antique ivory is also legal and permitted.
I am against the violation of game laws and poaching. Whether it is an undersize redfish, an out of season brook trout,  or an African elephant taken by poachers using AK-47s, violations should be prosecuted.

That said, this just doesn’t make sense to me. How does destroying this ivory do anything to stop the poaching of elephants? This is especially true if, as the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe notes, “rising global demand for ivory is erasing those hard-fought gains” against poaching. The basic laws of supply and demand would dictate that even if demand remains the same, the decline in supply will increase the price. If the actions of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Obama Administration are causing the price to increase, would not this encourage poachers even more?

Perhaps I’m naive but it would seem to me that the use of proceeds from a controlled sale of confiscated ivory to fund more game wardens in Africa, to reimburse native farmers whose crops are trampled by the elephants, and to finance the prosecution of poaching organizations at all levels would do more to conserve and protect African elephants than pulverizing this ivory.

I guess my problem in understanding the rationale behind all of this is that I’m not a politician or a bureaucrat or work for a NGO.