Daines, Alexander Introduce Legislation to Halt Over-Regulation of Legal Ivory

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today introduced legislation to halt the Obama administration’s over-regulation of lawfully owned ivory found in antique firearms, musical instruments and other family heirlooms and antiques often sought by collectors.

The African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015 ends the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s unilateral moratorium on the importation, exportation, and sale of lawfully possessed ivory, while also making significant efforts to assist anti-poaching efforts in countries with elephant populations.

“It’s senseless that the Obama administration wants to retroactively penalize Montanans who have legally owned ivory-containing antique firearms, musical instruments and other family heirlooms for years before this new rule was even drafted,” Daines stated. “This legislation will protect millions of law-abiding Americans from the Obama administration’s overreach and ensure that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s focus is fixed on stopping poachers and those who are violating our laws — not punishing antique collectors and musicians.”

“The Obama Administration’s plan to limit the trade of legal ivory – such as that found in legally produced guitars, pianos, and firearms – could prohibit musicians from buying or selling instruments that contain ivory, prevent firearms and family heirlooms containing ivory from being sold, and pose a significant threat to the antique business,” Alexander said. “I don’t support treating musicians, antique shops and firearms sellers like illegal ivory smugglers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife should take these concerns seriously as it considers changing how ivory is regulated.”

Daines’ and Alexander’s legislation is in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service’s (FWS) February 25, 2014 unilateral decision to implement a ban on the importation, exportation, or interstate sale of lawfully possessed ivory. 

The FWS ban has placed undue burdens on antique firearm owners and antique dealers, as well as musicians seeking to travel across the U.S. border.  Last year, Canadian bagpipers declined to continue their annual tradition of performing at a Glasgow, Montana homecoming celebration, fearing that their instruments would be confiscated at the border. 

Daines’ and Alexander’s legislation would allow:

  • Lawfully possessed, raw or worked ivory to be imported or exported, purchased or sold for museum displays and personal use;
  • The Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to place a U.S. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officer in each African country with significant elephant populations;
  • The Secretary of the Interior to certify any country found to be a significant transit or destination point under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act;
  • The continued importation of sport-hunted elephant trophies from populations listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species; 
  • For the reauthorization of appropriations of not more than $5 million for each of the years 2016-2020, and for these funds to be prioritized for projects designed to facilitate the acquisition of equipment and training of wildlife officials in ivory producing countries for anti-poaching efforts. 

The African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015 has garnered wide support.

“Once again the Obama administration is trying to punish law-abiding Americans for the acts of criminals,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox. “Instead of going after poachers and black-marketers, the Obama administration is attacking honest people who have broken no laws — gun owners, antique dealers, musicians and others who legally own items that contain ivory. Thanks to the leadership of Senators Daines and Alexander, the African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015 will protect millions of law-abiding Americans.” 

“This Bill protects millions of innocent American individuals and families who have collected, inherited and conserved lawfully acquired antiques made in whole or in part of African elephant ivory,” Families Conserving Antiques stated. “The campaign to end the surge in poaching of African elephants cuts too wide and too deep when it alternately trivializes and demonizes antique ivory objects, their collectors and traders as well.” 

“Safari Club International supports S. 1769, the African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015, sponsored by Senator Daines,” Safari Club International stated. “SCI supports all legislative efforts to avert the potential negative ramifications that would be caused by the implementation of Obama administration’s proposal to ban all U.S. commercial trade in elephant ivory, as part of its ‘National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.’ Unfortunately, this proposal would do virtually nothing to protect elephants in Africa and Asia, but would instead make American owners of legal ivory potential criminals overnight. Hunters, through elephant hunting and importation, are the strongest line of defense against poaching. SCI views Senator Daines introduction of S. 1769 as a sign of the Senator’s continued commitment to sportsmen and sportsmen’s rights.”

Daines has long been fighting to protect Americans from unnecessary government overreach. In the House, Daines introduced similar legislation, H.R. 5052, the Lawful Ivory Protection Act of 2014, to stop the Obama administration’s over-regulation of legal ivory.

Alexander introduced in the last Congress legislation that would have prohibited the administration from implementing its plan and would have prohibited the Fish and Wildlife Service from implementing any new rule, order, or standard that wasn’t in place prior to Feb. 25, 2014. 

Representative Don Young (R-AK) has introduced companion legislation in the House, H.R. 697

The full text of the bill is available here