Fighting Wildlife Crime amid Bureaucracy and Solutions

In 2016, a Minnesota man was found guilty of smuggling objects made from elephant ivory.

SOURCE:  PPJ Gazette

by Sam Jojola

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Background

“This article was originally published for World Animal News in November, 2015 and titled “Wildlife Crimes: Why Is It So Difficult to Enforce Laws”. This is an updated version that includes reference to a 2016 GAO report detailing the shortcomings and successes of combating wildlife trafficking. It often seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There are some positive changes, but they are slow.”

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Global Anti-Poaching Act of 2015

The passage of the Global Anti-Poaching Act (H.R. 2494) through the House on June 25, 2015 was long overdue and very encouraging news for wildlife law enforcement. It will greatly assist in addressing the rapid expansion of wildlife criminal syndicates and terrorist groups globally. Finally, after decades of “paralysis by analysis” there is some political motivation in the U.S. to deal with the exponential growth of wildlife crime here and around the world. Why has it taken so long?

The most recent GAO report dated September, 2016 titled Combating Wildlife Trafficking: Agencies are taking a range of actions but the task force lacks performance targets for assessing progress: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/679968.pdf

Perhaps there will be another GAO report this year to show measurable progress.

Layers of bureaucracy and political meddling

When one examines the primary agency responsible for investigating wildlife crimes on the federal level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement (USFWS/OLE) has been and is the lead entity to do so. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is primarily a biological entity under the umbrella of the Department of the Interior that oversees a host of at least nine (9) agencies, like the U.S. Park Service (USPS), the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to name a few. The USFWS/OLE is just one of fifteen (15) National programs managed by USFWS. In essence many layers of government within the Department of the Interior which is not a law enforcement entity like the Department of Justice. Other law enforcement agencies like the FBI, DEA, ATF, ICE, and the Secret Service, are not under the umbrella of a non-law enforcement entity that can sometimes run political interference and impede wildlife investigations and protection.

There are a number of glaring examples over the decades where political meddling by high level non-law enforcement leaders were persuaded by the interests of well-connected trophy hunters or landowners to “bend the rules” and give a seized hunting trophy back or not pursue an investigation into violations of federal wildlife laws. You won’t find these examples on the Internet as they are buried in the minds of former agents like myself or in obscure articles from the 1980’s and 1990’s hidden in library archives or this amazing October, 1996 29 page account from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER): https://www.peer.org/assets/docs/whitepapers/1996_tarnished_trophies.pdf

Here is a more recent account of a colleague of mine who was forced into retirement several years ago after he reported political interference and scientific misconduct in USFWS: http://www.hcn.org/articles/u-s-fish-and-wildlife-whistleblower-retaliation-case-raises-questions#commenting.

Just Google “USFWS political meddling into wildlife science based decisions” and a disturbing pattern of pages emerge over the years where politics overrides the protection of key species such as Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Wolverines and other species of concern.

Historical Neglect of Federal Wildlife Law Enforcement

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

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