Interior funding bill targets ivory regulations

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Legislation unveiled Tuesday would dial back Obama administration regulations restricting imports and trade of products including African elephant ivory.

The contentious rule is just one of several targeted by House Republicans in the fiscal 2015 Interior and Environment appropriations bill.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in February issued an order banning ivory trade as part of an effort to tamp down on animal trafficking. But critics – including musicians who use instruments containing small amounts of ivory – said the regulations were overly broad.

Language in the bill introduced Tuesday would bar FWS, a branch of the Interior Department, from using funds to “prepare, implement, or enforce any new or revised regulation” that imposes new limits on ivory imports or restricts the “possession, sale, delivery, receipt, shipment or transportation of ivory that has been lawfully imported into the United States.”

The provision takes aim at new regulations, which include an across-the-board ban on imports of any items containing African elephant ivory and further restrict commercial exports, except in certain circumstances.

The government’s push includes a renewed focus on previous regulations enacted, though seldom enforced, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Under those rules, musicians could have been barred from coming into the United States with instruments containing even a tiny amount of ivory — even if they are simply returning to the country, according to critics.

The FWS announced an exemption in May for traveling musicians, though the action was evidently not enough to assuage GOP concerns about the regulations. 

The bill also targets a host of Environmental Protection Agency rules meant to further the president's climate change initiative.