In February, the Assitant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Tom Strickland, made a testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife concerning the upcoming CITES CoP15 in Doha, where the debate for trade in ivory is again expected to dwarf all other discussions. We have extracted his introduction, and conclusions and zeroed in on the bit about the African Elephant. Some think that the Kirkland’s testimonial hints at a position about the African Elephant that is noncommittal. Read on and tell us what you think.
Testimony starts with this elaborate introduction:
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks
Department of the Interior
Before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife
Regarding U.S. Preparations for the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
February 11, 2010
Chairwoman Bordallo, Ranking Member Brown, and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks within the Department of the Interior. I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today regarding the Administration’s preparations for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which will take place in Doha, Qatar, from March 13th through March 25th, 2010. I will lead the United States delegation to CoP15.
Often referred to as the Washington Convention, CITES is the only global treaty to ensure that international wildlife trade is based on sustainable use and management of wild and captive populations. Now approaching its 40th anniversary, this treaty of 175 member nations remains one of the most influential and effective Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
The United States was instrumental in the development of the Convention, and has historically provided innovative leadership in its implementation and evolution. The United States hosted the Plenipotentiary Meeting to draft the Convention. That Convention took place here in Washington, DC. We were the first of the 21 original countries to sign CITES on March 3, 1973. The Administration is renewing the United States’ commitment to the Convention and its leadership role, and has prepared a number of species proposals and documents for consideration by the Parties for the 15th Meeting.
The lead responsibility within the United States for the implementation of CITES rests with the Secretary of the Interior, as specified in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). CITES requires that each participating nation designate a Management Authority and a Scientific Authority. Under the ESA, the Secretary of the Interior is designated as the Management Authority and the Scientific Authority, and the functions of each Authority are required to be carried out through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). In implementing CITES, the Service works closely with the Departments of State, Commerce (NOAA Fisheries, in particular), Agriculture (both the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Forest Service), Homeland Security (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol), and Justice, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Office of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.
There are a number of issues of particular importance to the United States to be considered at the 15th Meeting. In my testimony today, I would like to highlight those areas that I think are demonstrative of U.S. leadership in the Convention and will be our focus during this meeting.
Here, Strickland speaks about several species important to the USA’s preparations to CITES CoP15 including the Asian big cats, marine species, polar bear and bobcats before speaking about the African Elephant.
The United States has been actively involved in African elephant conservation under CITES since the inclusion of the species in Appendix II in 1977 and its transfer to Appendix I in 1989. The United States helped negotiate the compromise transfer of some Southern African populations to Appendix II in 1997 and 2000. The compromise continued the ban on commercial trade in ivory, but provided for a one-off (one-time) sale of registered stocks by several countries of raw ivory, all of which came from illegal trade seizures or during culls of stable elephant populations. These transfers were subject to detailed annotations that were further modified during subsequent meetings of the CoP, with an agreement at CoP14 that restricted any further proposals from existing Appendix-II populations for the sale of ivory until 2017.
Proposals for CoP15 include transfers of populations in Tanzania and Zambia from Appendix I to Appendix II, with similar annotations as the previous transfers, and a proposal by several range states for a 20-year moratorium on all ivory sales. Relative to the Tanzania and Zambia proposals, the United States awaits the findings of the Panel of Experts to advise the Parties on the merits of these proposals, and any consensus decisions forthcoming from the range countries themselves before formulating its final position. With regard to the 20-year moratorium, we note that imposing a long-term ban on ivory trade would pre-empt future proposals for such trade. This pre-emptive action appears to violate the terms of the treaty, which explicitly allow any Party to propose amendments to the Appendices of the Convention for consideration by the Conference of the Parties.
Strickland then talks about timber before delivering this closing statement.