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March 16, 2018
Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

When the Trump administration's decision to allow hunters of African elephants to bring their "trophies" back into the U.S. was poorly received, President Trump handed the decision to a committee charged with helping write federal rules on importing the heads and hides of elephants, lions, and rhinos. Then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stocked the committee with active trophy hunters, The Associated Press reports, and a review of "the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 board members" strongly suggests "they will agree with his position that the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them."

Most people on Zinke's so-called International Wildlife Conservation Council are high-profile members of Safari Club International and the NRA, and at least three of them are friendly with avid big game hunter Donald Trump Jr. — one, gun executive Peter Horn, co-owns the Trump sons' hunting property in New York's Hudson Valley. There are also several hunting-related TV personalities and guides, including Ivan Carter, a British citizen who called public revulsion over the shooting of Cecil the Lion "the 'Twin Towers' of the hunting world — our 9-11," and celebrity archer Cameron Hanes, who argued in a podcast last month that hunting allows animals like elephants to "have value."

Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which Zinke oversees, allowed importing elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe on a case-by-case basis, and it has issued permits for lion trophies from those two countries since October. The charter of the new advisory council includes duties like "recommending removal of barriers to the importation into the United States of legally hunted wildlife." A coalition of conservation groups argued this week that the panel's one-sided membership violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said the council members "represent all areas of conservation and varying opinions." Read more about the panel's members at AP. Peter Weber