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Proposed Federal Ivory Ban Rule Punishes Americans for Chinese Supported Poaching Print E-mail

July 29, 2015: After over a year's delay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposed regulation that would virtually ban the interstate trade in ivory, including knives with ivory handles and embellishments, has been published in the Federal Register.

Knife Rights Chairman Doug Ritter explained, "Knife owners, knifemakers, scrimshaw artists and suppliers will all be hit hard if the rule is allowed to go into effect as it is proposed. While there are some exceptions allowed in this proposed ivory ban, they are very narrow and the overall impact is as bad as expected for honest owners of decades-old legal ivory." A 60-day comment period is provided.

Knife 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 have demonstrated that an integrated comprehensive approach that encourages the locals to fight poaching does work. This is the sort of solution that should be expanded and encouraged by the U.S. and by all who really want to end poaching.

Knife Rights is working with our partners in the many organizations opposed to this rule to develop effective, well-reasoned and coherent arguments against this rule that we'll ask you to submit as comments over the next two months. That will take some time to put together.  

The most important thing concerned citizens can do right now is to contact your U.S. Representative and Senators to ask them to co-sponsor the African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015 which would protect honest U.S. ivory owners while providing for additional conservation and anti-poaching efforts in Africa. Click for more information.

For additional details on this proposed Federal Ivory Ban, click on Read More >>>>

This proposed regulation is based on three FALSE premises being promoted by the Administration for entirely political purposes:

  • • Elephant poaching in Africa is escalating
    •      ◦ Truth: CITES data shows poaching numbers have been falling since 2011 due to enhanced enforcement of existing law

  • •Large amounts of illegal ivory are being imported into the United States that are driving the elephant poaching problems in Africa
    •      ◦Truth: both CITES and U.S. data show that illicit ivory imports to the U.S. are insignificant, it is Chinese demand fueling the poaching

  • •By punishing Americans, the Chinese consumers who are really fueling the poaching problems will abandon their cultural affinity for ivory
    •      ◦Truth: Chinese demand for illicit ivory is independent from U.S. trade in domestic decades-old legal ivory

There is a lot to digest in this proposed regulation. The bottom line is that USFWS Director Dan Ashe has stated that the goal of the regulation is to implement a near complete ban on the domestic commercial trade of ivory. While the federal government does not have the power to stop trade within states, it is trying to end interstate trade (trade across state lines) in ivory that is decades-old and absolutely legal today to sell and trade.  

 

Ritter explained, "There is no evidence that this ban would save a single elephant in Africa, but it will take millions of dollars in value from honest Americans."  

 

There is more in this rule than can be described in one email blast, but an important addition to what has come before is a new de minimis exemption. To dilute political opposition to the rule, particularly from this Administration's key supporters, USFWS is proposing an exception for a narrow category of already manufactured items that contain less than 200 grams (7.05 oz.) of ivory.  

 

However, the exemption sounds better than it really is and there are some very strict and narrow criteria for the exemption. One critical criteria hasn't even been established yet and ivory owners would have to wait on that from the USFWS until AFTER the rule is put into force! (If that sounds somewhat familiar to other rulemaking and legislative efforts by this Administration that have not turned out well, it should.):

  • • If the item is located within the United States, the ivory was imported into the United States prior to January 18, 1990, or was imported into the United States under a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) pre-Convention certificate with no limitation on its commercial use;

  • • If the item is located outside the United States, the ivory was removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976;

  • • The ivory is a fixed component or components of a larger manufactured item and is not in its current form the primary source of the value of the item;

  • • The ivory is not raw;

  • • The manufactured item is not made wholly or primarily of ivory;

  • • The total weight of the ivory component or components is less than 200 grams; and

  • • The item was manufactured before the effective date of the final rule.

This exemption attempts to appease musicians and a limited number of other groups. It potentially might include some of the ivory handled and embellished knives owned by Americans. As noted, however, there are serious shortcomings to this exemption. Problems include:

  • • Sellers are still burdened with documentation requirements to prove they fit within the exemption and nobody will know for certain what this documentation will be until after the rule is put into effect! Nothing suggests that USFWS would be any more accommodating with regards to documentation than in its past positions and that means that very few individuals will be able to gain acceptable documentation, in large part since no documentation was previously required for these manufactured goods, so it simply doesn't exist

  • • There is no provision for repair or restoration of ivory components
  • • The method for measuring ivory to determine whether an item qualifies has not been defined

  • • Items made primarily from ivory (i.e. scrimshaw, jewelry, sculpture and carved objets d'art, chess sets, netsuke, religious items, etc.) are excluded entirely from this exemption.

We will provide recommended comments to address these and other issues over the next two months. You will be able to submit more than one comment and we can respond to comments made by others as long as comments are received by the end of the comment period, September 28th.

 

Right now, the very best action you can take is to CALL or EMAIL your Representative and Senators and ask them to Co-Sponsor the African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015 (H.R. 697 or S.1769, respectively) to protect both elephants and Americans. You can find your U.S. legislators and send them all an email here: www.democracy.io

 

 
 
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