Safari Club International has issued a warning to hunters: If you've ever imported or exported wildlife into or out of the United States, you need to be on guard.
On Nov. 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that information related to records for the import and export of all wildlife specimens to and from the United States may be disclosed to Humane Society International (HSI), based on Freedom of Information Act requests. The information potentially includes the identify of any U.S. and foreign importers and exporters of hunting trophies for the years 2002 through 2010, 2013, and 2014, and the declared value of the trophy.
What's important to note, though, is that the official Notice also informs submitters of such information of their ability to object to disclosure. Hence SCI's call for hunters to take action.
HSI had previously made four FOIA requests in 2014 and 2015, and FWS released some information but refused to disclose other facts. Earlier this year, HSI sued to obtain the withheld information. SCI intervened in the lawsuit to help defend the FWS's decision to withhold the information. Subsequently, the FWS informed the court that it is obligated to notify the submitters of the requested information of the fact that their information is the subject of a FOIA request and that the FWS may decide to release the information.
The more recent Notice informs those who are the subject of HSI's request that the FWS will presume that anyone who does not object within the time-period allotted for responses has no objection to the disclosure of his or her information. Submitters will have 21 days from the date of the publication of the notice in the Federal Register to send their written responses to the FWS's Office of Law Enforcement Freedom of Information office.
SCI is preparing some suggested sample language for its members and others to consider including in any objections sent to the FWS. The organization will disseminate that sample language on its website and through its social media platforms as soon as it is ready.