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Conservationists, animal rights groups sue administration over pro-hunting council

Conservationists, animal rights groups sue administration over pro-hunting council
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A group of conservationists and animal rights activists sued the Trump administration on Wednesday over its establishment of a pro-hunting international council.

The Humane Society, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) were among the organizations that filed the lawsuit, saying the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC) is illegal.

The groups said federal law requires all government advisory panels have a balanced mix of contributors, whereas the IWCC council consists primarily of pro-hunting industry representatives and recreational hunters. Other individuals on the 16-person council include Steven Chancellor, a top donor to President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE.

"This case concerns Defendants’ decision to reward a small band of trophy hunting enthusiasts and politically-connected donors by granting those individuals an outsized opportunity to craft federal wildlife policy," the group wrote in its suit.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump administration could use military bases to export coal, gas Why grizzly bear hunting season isn’t happening MORE created the council in November. That same week, the administration announced it would be rolling back an Obama-era policy banning the importation of elephant and lion trophies from key countries in Africa.

That announcement was largely criticized and was later walked back by the administration. In March, the Interior Department said it would consider trophy imports on a case-by-case basis.

At the IWCC's first meeting, in March, members agreed that hunting is necessary for conserving endangered species and impoverished communities in Africa and that illegal hunting — largely done by organized crime communities — should not to be mistaken for legal paid hunting.

Wednesday's lawsuit says the council gives an unjust microphone to the pro-hunting community.

"Elephants, rhinos, and lions face enough threats without the U.S. government giving the cover of credibility to trophy hunters peddling the self-serving notion that killing endangered species constitutes a legitimate strategy for conserving them,” said Zak Smith, senior attorney for NRDC. “If we have to sue to get our government to listen to wildlife conservation experts, we’re happy to do so.”

Smith is also director of NRDC’s Wildlife Trade Initiative.

In May, the Interior Department announced members of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council. The group, which is not named in the lawsuit filed Wednesday, held its first meeting in July.