Update Federal Ban on Ivory Summer 2015


1.WASHINGTON DC - fws.gov U.S. Fish and Wldlife Service
Antique Dealers
Can I currently sell elephant ivory products within the United States?
 African elephant ivory that a seller can demonstrate was lawfully imported prior to January 18, 1990—the date that the African elephant was listed in CITES Appendix I—and ivory imported under a CITES pre-Convention certificate can be sold within the United States (across state lines and within a state). Asian elephant ivory sold in interstate co
mmerce within the United States must meet the strict criteria of the ESA antiques exception.
Because the current rules regarding interstate commerce are different for African elephant ivory compared to Asian elephant ivory, a seller must be able to identify the ivory to species. This could be demonstrated using CITES permits or certificates, a qualified appraisal, or documents that detail date and place of manufacture, etc.
Can I currently import antique items containing African elephant ivory for commercial purposes?
 No. The Service no longer allows any commercial importation of African elephant ivory. This prohibition, which was originally established via the 1989 African Elephant Conservation Act (AECA) moratorium, applies even to items that qualify as antiques.
Why is the Service allowing limited imports for non-commercial purposes to continue, but restricting the commercial importation of antiques made from African elephant ivory?
 The United States is a market for objects made from African elephant ivory, which drives increasing poaching of wild elephants. The Service has determined that it must take every administrative and regulatory action to cut off import of raw and worked elephant ivory where that importation is for commercial purposes. Allowing imports for law enforcement and scientific purposes is in line with the Service’s mission to help conserve African elephants and stop trafficking in African elephant ivory. The other limited exceptions allow movement into the United States of legally possessed African elephant ivory that predates the listing under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for personal use as part of a household move or inheritance, musical performances, and traveling exhibitions. Each of these types of import must meet specific criteria. And unlike the commercial antiques trade, none of these types of imports has been used by smugglers to “cover” trafficking in newly poached ivory.
How does prohibiting commercial use of antiques and other old ivory help elephant populations in Africa?
 Illegal ivory trade is driving a dramatic increase in African elephant poaching, threatening the very existence of this species. It is extremely difficult to differentiate legally acquired ivory, such as ivory imported in the 1970s, from ivory derived from elephant poaching. Our criminal investigations and anti-smuggling efforts have shown clearly that legal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade. By significantly restricting ivory trade in the United States, it will be more difficult to launder illegal ivory into the market and thus reduce the threat of poaching to imperiled elephant populations.
 What are the penalties for violating the ESA?
 The maximum penalty for violating the ESA is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for an individual, $200,000 for an organization. Those who engage in illegal wildlife trade under the ESA may also face prosecution under the Lacey Act's anti-trafficking provisions (maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and fines of $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization).
Is it illegal to create or submit false paperwork to claim that an item qualifies as antique under the ESA antique exception?
african-elephant-walking-down-path
Confiscated Ivory Goods
 Credit: Peter Maas CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Yes.  The Lacey Act makes it illegal to produce or submit any false record, account, label for, or false identification of wildlife being transported in interstate or international commerce (maximum penalty 5 years in prison and fines of $250,000 for an individual, $500,000 for an organization).  Making false statements and using false documents violates 18 U.S.C. 1001 (maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and fines of $250,000 for an individual, $500,000 for an organization). 
What is meant by the ESA antiques exception?
 The import, export and interstate sale (sale across state lines) of listed species or their parts is prohibited without an ESA permit except for items that qualify as “antique”.
To qualify as antique, the importer, exporter or seller must show that the item meets all of these criteria:
•It is 100 years or older;
•It is composed in whole or in part of an ESA-listed species;
•It has not been repaired or modified with any such species after December 27, 1973; and
•It is being or was imported through an endangered species “antique port.”
Museums and educational institutions
How can worked African elephant ivory be imported as part of a traveling exhibition?
 Worked African elephant ivory may be imported as part of a traveling exhibition, such as a museum or art show, provided that the ivory was legally acquired prior to February 26, 1976; the worked elephant ivory has not been transferred from one person to another in the pursuit of financial gain or profit after February 25, 2014; the person or group qualifies for a CITES traveling exhibition certificate; and the item containing elephant ivory is accompanied by a valid CITES traveling exhibition certificate or an equivalent CITES document that meets the requirements of CITES Resolution Conf. 16.8. Raw African elephant ivory cannot be imported as part of a traveling exhibition.
Owners of elephant Ivory
Is ownership and use of personally owned elephant ivory items affected?
Personal possession of legally acquired items containing elephant ivory will remain legal. Worked African elephant ivory imported for personal use as part of a household move or as an inheritance and worked African elephant ivory imported as part of a musical instrument or a traveling exhibition will continue to be allowed provided the worked ivory has not been transferred from one person to another person in pursuit of financial gain or profit after February 25, 2014, and the item is accompanied by a valid CITES document. The import of raw African elephant ivory, other than sport-hunted trophies, is prohibited.
 Import and export of Asian elephant ivory is allowed for non-commercial purposes either with an ESA permit or if the specimen qualifies as pre-ESA or as an antique under the ESA.
How can African elephant ivory be imported for personal use?
 You may only import worked African elephant ivory for personal use as part of a household move or inheritance or as a musical instrument provided that the ivory was legally acquired before February 26, 1976; the ivory has not been transferred from one person to another person in pursuit of financial gain or profit after February 25, 2014; and the item is accompanied by a valid Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) pre-Convention certificate. Worked elephant ivory can also be imported as part of a sport-hunted trophy, if all other requirements for sport-hunted trophies are met.


2. NEW YORK - New York Times - July 26, 2015. The proposed changes would still
allow Americans to sell ivory across state lines, but only if it meets the strict criteria of the antiques exemption listed in the Endangered Species Act. The act identifies an antique as an item that is 100 years or older, that is partly or entirely composed of a species listed under the act, and that has not been repaired or modified with any such species after Dec. 27, 1973. It also must have been imported through one of 13 specific antique ports within the United States.
Certain manufactured items that contain a small amount of ivory — like musical instruments and ivory-handled guns — survived the cut after some lobbying from the affected industries, but the new rule will also ban interstate sales of so-called sport-hunted trophies and ivory that was imported in the United States as part of a household move or inheritance.
The current law allows for the sale of ivory and ivory products if they were lawfully imported before the date the African elephant was listed in an international convention on endangered species, but only if the seller can provide documents proving that the elephant had died of natural causes or that the ivory had been obtained before the convention took effect. Experts say the new revisions are necessary because it is difficult for the average consumer to distinguish legal ivory from illegal ivory. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/world/africa/obama-administration-targets-trade-in-african-elephant-ivory.html?_r=0

2. NEW YORK - Forbes Magazine - Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Obama Administration Treats Antique Collectors And Dealers As Criminals: New Ivory Rules Put Elephants At Increased Risk
The Obama administration is preparing to treat virtually every antique collector, dealer, and auctioneer in America—and anyone else who happens to own a piece of ivory—as a criminal. In the name of saving elephants, the administration is effectively banning the sale of any object containing any ivory, even if legally acquired decades ago. Doing so will weaken conservation efforts by expanding the ivory black market, diverting enforcement resources away from true contraband ivory, and enriching those engaged in the illegal ivory trade.
In Africa poachers are killing elephants for their tusks. Ill-equipped and under-financed African governments are unable to stop the slaughter. Western industrialized states have responded by pushing sales restrictions. Under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) only ivory from before 1989 can be sold. Official certification is required for international shipment. Special CITES approval is necessary for even governments to market post-1989 ivory.
Unfortunately, ivory prohibition has not protected the animals. By far the greatest demand for new ivory comes from Asia, though some smuggling occurs elsewhere, including the West. However, most ivory in America arrived legally many years ago. A beautiful material easily worked by skilled craftsmen, ivory has provided jewelry, pool cues, piano keys, canes, clocks, toys, musical instruments, card cases, beer steins, balls, seals, fans, gun stocks, chess sets, crosses, netsukes, sculptures, poker chips, figurines, die, handles, and a myriad of other decorative objects. These items have made their way into public museums, private collections, dealer inventories, and auction showrooms across America.
The elephants which provided the ivory for these items are long dead. The owners have acted responsibly and legally, following the rules as they invested hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars in objects d’art. Most collectors and dealers don’t traffic in poached ivory.
Until now the rules were simple and sensible. Ivory imported legally, that is, prior to 1989 or after 1989 with CITES certification that international standards were met, could be sold. Older ivory usually can be identified by coloring, stains, style, wear, quality, subject, and more. Some features can be faked, but most of the older work simply isn’t replicated today.
Moreover, the burden of proof fell on the government, which had to prove that you violated the law. That standard is inconvenient for zealous prosecutors. But that’s the way America normally handles both criminal and civil offenses.
However, last year the administration formed an interagency task force and an Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. The latter lacked any representative of the thousands of responsible Americans who own legal ivory. Collectors and dealers are numerous, but not well-organized. Existing associations have limited memberships and narrowly focused activities.
The Advisory Council recommended prohibition. In mid-February the administration issued its new plan, which was as close as possible to a total ban without being a total ban. (The new administration policy also applies to rhinoceros.) In practice, virtually every collector, dealer, auctioneer, and other person—who may simply have picked up or inherited some ivory—in America is banned from selling ivory items, even if acquired legally, owned for decades, and worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. Indeed, the collective value of that property runs into the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Every flea market, junk shop, estate sale, antique store, auction showroom, and antique show is at risk of raids, confiscations, and prosecutions. And not one additional elephant is likely to survive as a result.

3.  SAN FRANCISCO -By ELLEN KNICKMEYER - The Associated Press Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Ivory dealers in San Francisco's Chinatown stood in their shop doors next to windows full of carved ivory tusks and trinkets, unfazed by proposed federal rules that the White House says go as far as possible to ban the U.S. trade of ivory from the world's endangered elephants.
"Wooly mammoth ivory," not elephant ivory, Michael Rasoyli said this week of the carved tusks for sale in the store he manages.
"Cow bone," Virginia Lo, manager of a Chinatown shop next door, said of the half-dozen curved tusks up to 4 ½ feet long that she was selling.
Those claims are a ruse, according to opponents of the global trade in elephant ivory. San Francisco and Los Angeles make up two of the country's top three hubs for ivory sales, and most dealers in the state rely on intentional mislabeling to cover up the illegal sale of recently poached African elephants, wildlife groups and some ivory experts say.
The proposed federal rules would not close the mislabeling loopholes, ivory opponents say, but a bill before state lawmakers would narrow them in California by banning ivory-like material from many animals, advocates say.
The regulations, announced by Obama on Saturday during his state visit to Kenya, would limit most interstate trade in elephant ivory to antiques that the seller can prove are at least a century old, and to items, such as gunstocks with ivory inlay, that include only a small percentage of ivory overall.
In Chinatown, German tourist Heike Dietrich stopped cold at the sight of the tusks — carved into reliefs of elephants and other African wildlife — on display Monday at Rasoyli's store.
"I can't believe it," Dietrich said, leaning in for a closer look. "It's forbidden. Everybody knows the elephants are endangered. They massacre them to get these?"
Surging demand for ivory among China's growing middle class has spurred poaching that has decimated elephant herds in Africa. Tanzania said last month that ivory hunters had killed 60 percent of the country's elephants in just five years. Mozambique reported a 48 percent decline in elephants in the same period.
After China, the United States is the world's largest consumer of ivory, as well as a key conduit for ivory sales internationally, according to wildlife groups.
Typically, poached elephant ivory coming into the U.S. is mixed with legal lookalikes — hippo, mammoth, or plastic ivory facsimiles — and labeled as mammoth, Kenya-based ivory researcher Daniel Stiles wrote last year for the National Resources Defense Council environmental group.
Thawing of Arctic permafrost is bringing an increasing number of tusks of long-dead wooly mammoth to global markets, but Stiles estimated that up to 90 percent of ivory on sale last year in Los Angeles and 80 percent on sale then in San Francisco was illegal elephant ivory.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asked about the difficulty of discerning ivory of the extinct wooly mammoth from that of illegally killed African elephants, said the agency requires a trained scientist to positively identify the species from which any carved ivory object originated.
Outside the federal rules, some states are taking a hard line to curtail illegal ivory.
New York, which wildlife officials call the country's biggest ivory market, banned the sale of most elephant ivory, mammoth tusks and rhinoceros horns last year.
In California, Democratic Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins authored legislation this year to ban sales of ivory-like material from animals ranging from elephants and wooly mammoths to wart hogs and whales. The bill passed the Assembly and is now before a Senate committee.
The California legislation "closes loopholes that have allowed the illegal sale of ivory to continue," Atkins said in an email Monday. "By closing these gaps in existing law, we can help shut down the California market and save thousands of elephants and rhinos every year."
In Chinatown, store manager Yail Levi pulled from an office desk a document bearing what he said were the stamps and emblem of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He could send it with any ivory purchase to attest to its provenance from wooly mammoths, he said.
"For the last 10 years, we sell only mammoth ivory," Levi said.
He declined to allow The Associated Press to photograph the document. And while the shop had import documents for the carved ivory pieces, he said he could not show them.


4.  FAIRFAX, VA -(AmmoLand.com)- On Wednesday, July 15, 2015, Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), along with original cosponsor, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), introduced S. 1769, the “African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015.”
This bill would prevent the Obama Administration from banning the U.S. sale and trade of legally owned ivory, as well as ensure that sport-hunted elephant trophies can be imported from countries with sustainable elephant populations.
Recently, the Administration has taken steps to ban the domestic sale and trade of legally owned items that contain ivory under the guise that the ban will stop poaching and end the international illicit trade in ivory. In the U.S., ivory has long been used in gun making, just as it has been used in fine furniture, jewelry, and musical instruments. Ivory is widely used in rifle and shotgun sights and sight inserts, and for ornamental inlays in rifle and shotgun stocks. Custom handguns–such as General George S. Patton’s famous revolvers–are also often fitted with ivory grips. Ivory is also widely used in related accessories used by hunters and fishermen, such as handles on knives, gun cleaning equipment, and tools. While the goal of restricting illegal commerce in wildlife is laudable, restricting trade in these items–all made of ivory from elephants taken long ago–will do nothing to further current anti-poaching efforts, or to reduce the international illicit ivory trade.
In addition, the Administration intends to limit the number of sport-hunted African elephant trophies that an individual can import to two per year. Hunting has, in fact, been hailed as a valuable tool of wildlife conservation in Africa because it contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the economic well-being of local communities, as well as provides resources to combat poaching. Limiting legally-taken trophies from sustainable populations is an ill-advised and scientifically unsupportable restriction.
S. 1769 would prevent the Administration from banning the sale and trade of legally-owned ivory in the U.S., as well as ensure that sport-hunted elephant trophies can be imported from countries with sustainable elephant populations. The NRA fully supports S. 1769 and appreciates Senator Daines’s and Senator Alexander’s leadership on this important issue.
?Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 697, the House companion bill to S. 1769.
?Please Contact Your U.S. Senators and ask them to cosponsor and support S. 1769.
You can contact your U.S. Senators about this important legislation by using our “Write Your Lawmakers” tool or by phone at (202) 225-3121.
About the NRA-ILA
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5. WASHINGTON DC Cato Institute - The Administration’s New Ivory Ban: I’m from the Government and I’m Here to Kill Elephants and Treat Americans as Criminals
By Doug Bandow
This article appeared on Forbes on March 17, 2014.
On Thursday the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking is meeting near the nation’s capital to plot the administration’s impending ban on ivory sales. The panel is charged with saving endangered animals, but its proposals would accelerate the slaughter of African elephants.
Moreover, this obscure committee would turn millions of law-abiding Americans into criminals. The Council also would destroy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property legally acquired by everyone from antique dealers and restorers to tourists and retirees.
"Counter-productive and unfair penalties cannot be justified because government officials want to take a short-cut.”
Elephants are magnificent creatures—intelligent, social, and expressive. But their tusks have been called white gold, encouraging widespread and well-organized poaching.
Unfortunately, elephants have few effective defenders. The animals destroy everything before them, stripping trees of foliage and bark, trampling crops underfoot, and killing farmers and villagers who get in the way. Thus, many local people view poachers as friends.
African governments have limited means while confronting other serious problems, including pervasive poverty, ethnic division, and violent conflict. Agencies often are ineffective and incompetent; officials often are disinterested and corrupt.
International activists, groups, and governments are better at hectoring African states than in developing new, more effective conservation strategies. In fact, Western elites sometimes appear more interested in feeling virtuous than in deterring poaching.
For instance, in 1989 the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) outlawed the sale of new ivory. Unfortunately, the ban increased the price of ivory, which remains in high demand. Carving has essentially died out in the West, but sales are strong in ever-more prosperous Asia; China alone accounts for 70 percent of tusks from poached elephants.
Thousands of elephants are still killed annually. Daniel Stiles of the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group explained: “The inconvenient truth is that the CITES ivory trade ban and [subsequent CITES] votes to cut off legal raw ivory supplies are the real causes of the recent elephant holocaust.”
Yet the U.S. and other nations recently made a great show of destroying ivory stockpiles, which could have been sold to dampen prices and provide revenues for conservation. Far worse, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans what it calls “a nearly complete ban on commercial elephant ivory” trade.
Talented craftsmen long used ivory to make items both practical and beautiful. “Ivory has fulfilled a key role in most of the world’s civilizations since the beginning of recorded time,” explained the International Ivory Society.
Among the most beautiful chess sets are carved ivory. Tusks were turned into stunning beer steins. Japanese netsukes exhibit the finest oriental craftsmanship. Stunning statuary was carved out of ivory. There are ivory canes, clocks, buttons, jewelry, poker chips, tools, card cases, and toys. Piano keys once were ivory, which also was used for other musical instruments. Book marks and page turners as well as religious objects, such as crosses, were made out of ivory. Ivory was used for gun stocks, knife handles, and furniture accents, as well as a myriad of other purposes. Today these items—all created, sold, given, and bequeathed legally over decades and centuries—have made their way into private collections and public museums, and are exchanged by flea market amateurs, sophisticated antique dealers, and internationally-known auctioneers across America and the world.
Outlawing this trade makes no sense. In September 2012 USFWS admitted: “we do not believe that there is a significant illegal ivory trade into this country.” Most ivory in America, 95 percent or more, is older and legal.
Obviously, buying and selling objects derived from elephants long dead does not endanger elephants today. Some activists view anything ivory with disdain, but moral vanity is no substitute for practical acumen. One could burn every existing piece of ivory—in fact, Great Britain’s Prince William recently advocated destroying the royal family’s historic ivories—and not one additional elephant would be saved. To the contrary, any such attempt actually would further hike the value of ivory and thereby increase the incentive to kill elephants.
USFWS argues that it is hard to distinguish between new and old ivory—“legal ivory trade can serve as a cover for illegal trade”—so the agency’s answer is to turn most everyone who attempts to sell most any ivory into a criminal. After all, it then “will be more difficult to launder illegal ivory into the market.” In short, if you can’t catch the bad guys, declare everyone to be a bad guy! If you have trouble finding the relatively small amount of illegal new ivory sold today, declare everything ivory to be illegal, increasing the illicit total 20-fold! Then it won’t be hard to find ivory products to seize and traffickers to arrest.
Weirdly, museums would be exempt from the prohibition. But why shouldn’t they lead if banning legal ivory is necessary to save elephants? Moreover, the administration would continue to allow the import of tusks from sport hunting. Items also could be imported as part of household moves, which would turn the tens of thousands of military personnel who rotate every year into potential sources of illicit ivory.
 Criminalizing the law-abiding is a tactic of the indolent, not the serious. No doubt, some sellers of new ivory try to make it look old. And the difference between legal carving in the 1970s and illegal in the 1990s may not be obvious. But the vast majority of antique ivory, which is what most collectors desire and acquire, is obviously antique. Differences from modern items include region, style, purpose, subject, character, and quality. Many aspects of age are hard to fake: cracks, patina, wear, stains, and more. Admittedly, enforcing the law requires effort, but that is no reason to treat innocent and guilty alike.
Turning everyone into a criminal would accelerate the slaughter of elephants. Today USFWS says it has trouble stopping the import and sale of a limited amount of poached ivory. So it proposes greatly increasing the amount of illegal contraband and number of illegal traffickers. Agents would have to visit flea markets as well as antique shows, and police online listings as well as auction offerings.
This obviously would dissipate already highly limited enforcement resources. And the government’s incentive would be to fire at the easiest targets—who are not today’s well-organized illicit poachers. The agency says it wouldn’t go after people selling family knick-knacks, but anyone who counted on not being prosecuted for violating the law by agents and prosecutors hoping for an easy boost to their enforcement statistics would be a fool. And who would dare buy the ivory, even if it was offered for sale? Indeed, any collector or dealer with ivories of substantial quality or quantity inevitably would be in the agency’s crosshairs.
Moreover, rather than develop a strategy enlisting collectors and dealers, who have expertise in distinguishing between old and new ivory, to help ferret out illegal poached ivory, USFWS would turn every owner of legal ivory today into an enemy. Under these rules a collector or dealer would be stupid to cooperate with the government.
The de facto ban also would help finance illicit trafficking networks. Americans are unlikely to docilely allow government to steal their property. Many if not most of them would still try to sell property they purchased, inherited, or otherwise acquired legally. Thousands or millions of Americans would attempt to get something back from their investments.
Sales would go underground. Some people would trade online, such as eBay, relying on camouflaged descriptions, amplified by off-line contact. Others would turn to trusted networks of collectors and dealers. Some number would feel no choice but to yield to the dark side and turn to people who know best how to flog illegal ivory objects—those currently dealing in products made of poached ivory. The market for faked documentation, from invoices, receipts, and appraisals to official CITES certificates, would burgeon.
All of this would enrich and empower today’s criminals dealing in poached ivory. The fact the policy is likely to prove ineffective is reason enough for the administration to reverse course.
But criminalizing otherwise legal conduct also would be unfair to the millions or tens of millions of Americans who followed the rules in building businesses and collections involving ivory. Imagine Washington declaring that since it is difficult to distinguish between legitimate diamonds and “blood diamonds” used by warring groups in Africa, diamonds no longer could be sold in America.
Moreover, the planned ivory ban makes nonsensical distinctions and favors those with friends in high places and possessing high-value collections and inventories. The administration already has outlawed all ivory imports, even of recognized antiques (which currently are tightly regulated and require CITES certification). This action reflects pure spite: poachers don’t send their products through global auction houses with international certification and inspection.
The government’s secretive rule-making process caught many people unaware. Tony Blumka, a New York dealer in ivories dating back to medieval times, shipped most of his inventory to Europe for a major show. He told The Magazine Antiques: “I can’t bring them home even though they are thoroughly documented, often with provenance going back centuries.”
Exports of legal ivory would be more highly restricted, limited to antiques, though the rule’s exact parameters are not yet clear. If the administration genuinely believes the U.S. market is a problem, why hinder carefully controlled antique exports? Again, one suspects the principal desire is to punish collectors and dealers, who would have increased difficulty disposing of legally acquired items.
Most dramatically, the administration would ban interstate sale of anything not an antique, meaning 100 years old. Newer, legal items dating before 1989 could be sold only within states. The proposed age distinction between legal ivories is bizarre. Imagine two collectors possessing 90-year-old legal ivory objects. If one lived in Wyoming and the other in California, too bad. Both may be Americans, but it would be illegal for them to trade with one another!
Sellers also would have to prove the age “through documented evidence.” Alas, documentation does not exist for most ivories owned by most people since it has never before been required. Unfortunately, carvers from decades and centuries ago did not provide notarized affidavits and certificates of authenticity. Deceased parents didn’t include original receipts and descriptions with their bequests. Dealers failed to provide expert certifications when making sales.
Will there be any alternative to nonexistent documents? In relation to products made from other endangered species USFWS said traders “must definitively prove” age through scientific testing or “qualified appraisal” determined by the government to be reliable. Even if these looser standards were applied to ivory objects, the cost of testing and appraising would be high, too high for most products devalued by the increasing uncertainties of the ivory marketplace.
Demanding unreasonable and unavailable documentation is to impose a ban in reality. Perhaps USFWS preferred an absolute prohibition but feared legal challenge, since individual collectors and dealers have invested hundreds, thousands, and even millions of dollars in reliance on past policy. By leaving a nominal right to sell the administration may hope to thwart claims of government takings under the Fifth Amendment.
Rather than treat law-abiding Americans as adversaries, the advisory council and USFWS should develop a tougher strategy targeted against the real criminals—those guilty of killing elephants, poaching tusks, and selling illegal objects. Washington should start by working with African governments tasked with protecting elephants. These states should be allowed to sell ivory seized from poachers and collected from elephants which died naturally or were culled to raise revenue to both improve enforcement and reimburse local communities which lose crops and homes to elephants. More broadly a legal ivory market could help infuse value to live elephants and reward those who contribute to their protection.
At home the administration should build on present policy and target those dealing in illicit ivory. Already some states, such as New York, require dealers in ivory to procure licenses. USFWS should make legitimate collectors and dealers allies and train government agents how to distinguish new and old ivory. Any new regulations should not penalize people who acted and invested in good faith based on rules in force for decades.
Counter-productive and unfair penalties cannot be justified because government officials want to take a short-cut. If the administration insists on turning millions of innocent Americans into criminals, they should treat that policy as a declaration of political war.
A ban on ivory sales might appear to be an esoteric issue of interest only to a few people. But it raises fundamental questions: Is the U.S. still governed by the rule of law, does government still respect private property, and can citizens expect law enforcement to treat them with basic fairness? If not, all Americans will have lost something very important. Government prepares to ban legal ivory sales. Will kill elephants and turn millions of Americans into criminals.