In their omnibus spending bill, Congress hid a gift to trophy hunters

For years, there have been attempts to rid Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the three antelope species by persuing a blanket exemption to the permitting requirement—even well after such exemption was struck down in federal court in 2009.On January 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, a massive package that will fund the federal government through the end of September.

The bill passed the Senate a little more than 24 hours later, and President Obama signed it into law on January 17.

After months of heated debate on the budget issue, in the end it all happened very quickly, and, in a nowadays rare showing of bipartisanship, Congress seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, so did trophy hunters.

Hidden within the 1,582 page package was their gift: a rider put forth by U.S. Representative John Carter (R-Texas) at the behest of the Dallas Safari Club, the same organization that recently auctioned off the chance to kill one of the world’s last black rhinos.

Also on IFAW.org: Dallas Safari Club black rhino trophy hunt spin couldn't be further from the truth

This shameful rider exempted three endangered African antelope species—the scimitar horned oryx, Dama gazelle and the addax— from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections, effectively clearing the way for pay-to-play captive hunts of these nearly extinct animals on U.S. ranches without any federal oversight.

In order to hunt any other foreign ESA-listed species within U.S. game ranches, you need to first obtain a federal permit that can only be granted if the proposed action will enhance conservation.

But getting a permit and demonstrating its conservation value was too much to ask of these trophy hunters.

Instead, for years, they have attempted to rid ESA protections for the three antelope species by pursuing a blanket exemption to the permitting requirement—even well after such exemption was struck down in federal court in 2009.

And they continue attempts to delist the three species altogether.

In the end, after making so much noise for so many years, sneaking in a quiet rider was all it took to vastly undermine ESA protections for a set of species already struggling to survive.

Beyond disappointment lies a deep concern: in an era where the ESA is constantly under attack, allowing such a rider to pass might set a precedent for Congress to more frequently extend gifts to trophy hunters by exempting more endangered species from the protections of the ESA.

We can’t let that happen.

For hundreds of species across the country and abroad, the ESA is the only defense against extinction and the great hope for recovery. 

Stay tuned.

--TC

Make sure to let your Congressional representatives know the ESA has your support. 

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