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Begich Warns Feds Against Hasty Plan to Ban Ivory

Senator Requests Economic Impact Study in Advance of Task Force Decision

U.S. Senator Mark Begich today urged the Administration to adopt a reasonable approach to combat wildlife trafficking that includes the consideration of the subsistence practices of Alaska Natives and the economic consequences on rural communities. Sen. Begich conveyed his comments in a letter to Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewel in response to reports that a presidential task force will release a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking by early next year.

“As the U.S. considers a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, I urge the Department of Interior to consider a reasonable approach when it comes to any immediate ban or restriction of the use of ivory,” said Sen. Begich.  “Such actions could have negative economic consequences for Alaska Native artists and carvers that have acquired ivory in a legitimate, legal manner.”

On July 1, 2013 President Obama signed an executive order establishing a task force to develop a national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking.  The task force is comprised of private-sector leaders, representatives of nonprofit organizations, and former government officials.  

“While the trafficking of wildlife and animal parts is a criminal activity that has become a multi-billion dollar illicit business, there are small businesses and niche markets that depend on legally acquired ivory pieces for things like musical instruments, firearms, knife handles, and certain art works,” said Sen. Begich.  “Additionally, Alaska is home to small villages where Alaska Native people depend on a subsistence lifestyle and who use animal parts to make tools, art, or other products that then become the main source of income for the year.”

The Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking held a public meeting on December 16 and will make recommendations to President Obama on the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking before the end of the year.  Sen. Begich requested a timeline for the decision-making process as well as an outline describing any potential negative effects of this strategy would have on businesses in the U.S. and Alaska that rely on legal ivory for products and art.

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