Representatives from a number of pro-hunting conservation organizations are included in the membership of the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), which was established by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in November 2017.
Zinke established IWCC to advise the Department of Interior concerning actions to improve wildlife conservation abroad and expand the public’s awareness of hunters’ contributions to wildlife conservation and in helping wildlife law enforcement.
In his statement announcing the formation of the IWCC Zinke said the committee would help publicize actions that help wildlife thrive.
“Built on the backs of hunters and anglers, the American conservation model proves to be the example for all nations to follow for wildlife and habitat conservation,” Zinke’s November 8, 2017 statement said. “This council will provide important insight into the ways that American sportsmen and women benefit international conservation from boosting economies and creating hundreds of jobs to enhancing wildlife conservation.”
Council members serve as volunteers and will not receive a salary, though DOI has budgeted $250,000 in for travel expenses, staff time, and other related costs.
As one of its first acts, IWCC recommended DOI rewrite federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African elephants and lions taken on trophy hunts. IWCC said the threatened and endangered species would go extinct without the anti-poaching programs funded in part by the fees paid by trophy hunters to take them.
Retired Oklahoma congressman Bill Brewster was unanimously selected as the board’s chairman during its inaugural meeting on March 15. Brewster says fees and other costs paid by foreign hunters provide critical funding for anti-poaching programs and wildlife management programs in Africa and elsewhere.
“As long as an animal has value, it will exist,” Brewster told the Associated Press which reported on the IWCC’s inaugural meeting. “Most of us in this room enjoy hunting. But first has to come conservation and habitat preservation. Without that, there is no hunting.”
Other people selected by Zinke to serve on IWCC’s 16 member board include: Safari Club International president Paul Babaz, a Morgan Stanley investment adviser; Erica Rhoad, a former Republican congressional staffer who is the National Rifle Association’s director of hunting policy; Steven Chancellor, chairman of American Patriot Group, a company that supplies Meals Ready to Eat to the U.S. military; John Jackson, president of Conservation Force; Jenifer Chatfield, a zoo and wildlife veterinarian professor; Gary Kania, vice president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation; and Keith Mark, a professional hunting guide who co-hosts “Shawn Michaels’ MacMillan Rivers Adventures,” an Outdoor Channel television show with former professional wrestler Shawn Michaels.
Mark told the Associated Press his work on the council will be guided by his experience as an active conservationist.
“I see the world from a hunting lifestyle,” the Associated Press reports Mark said. “It’s the most pure form of hands-on conservation that there is.”
“I will approach all decision-making with my background,” said Mack.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.