Winds of Change: Opportunity for Gain?

Golden Eagle

Eagle take is strictly regulated under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1962

Opportunity Knocks
Donald J. Trump, whether you like him or not, is the new President of the United States. That could mean big changes for wildlife policy. During his address to the joint session of congress last week, Trump made it clear that the priorities of his Administration will be far different from those of his predecessor. While life under the Obama Administration proved difficult for many wildlife stakeholders, opportunities to influence future policy at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), are within reach of those that seize the initiative.

After almost a decade under siege by powerful special interest groups and unfriendly government agencies, it will be interesting to see if stakeholders that were under the knife with Obama go on the offensive under Trump.

Change is in the Air
It’s no secret that agency culture at USDA and FWS became decidedly anti-business and anti-resource use under the Obama Administration. With Hilary Clinton the heir apparent as next in line for the Presidency, animal rights and environmentalist organizations were giddy with prospects for a further expansion of power and influence in a Clinton Administration. However, the unexpected victory of Donald Trump brought those aspirations to a screeching halt. In this new political climate, like their opposition before them, wildlife stakeholders stand to make significant gains of their own.

Unless there are significant economic implications, most wildlife issues will not be a priority for the new Administration. The President made it clear that his focus will be on replacing Obama-care, tax reform, energy production and infrastructure. Most of the administrative regulatory changes previously under review, will likely never see the light of day. But while that may be a relief to many, it is a double edged sword for those who are faced with trying to garner attention to a much needed roll-back of bad regulations already put in place by the outgoing Administration.

Damages Done
Particularly hard hit by rule changes were herpetoculture and antique ivory interests. The arbitrary nature of these rules from FWS have yielded damages to stakeholders that could measure upwards of $100 million in lost jobs, assets and income. The challenge then becomes, when the new Administration is focused on weighty issues like repealing Obama-care and tax reform, how to bring attention to issues like Lacey Act over-reach or the trade of certain rare antiquities?

Wildlife Rules Enacted Under Obama Administration

  • FWS — Injurious Wildlife Listing of 9 Constricting Snakes — Python Ban
  • FWS — Categorical Exemption from NEPA Requirements on Lacey Act listings — CatX
  • FWS — Injurious Wildlife Listing of 201 Salamander Species– Salamnder Ban
  • USDA/Aphis — Handling and Husbandry of Neonatal Nondomestic Cats
  • FWS — Rule for the African Elephant, Endangered Species Act — Ivory Ban

There are also questions of internal decisions at regional FWS offices regarding limits on the issuance of wildlife take permits for species that have already been approved for specific use. The decision making process appears to be colored by a culture that is decidedly anti-hunting. Mid-level agency administrators are making decisions that are contrary to approved FWS policy. But where there is minimal economic impact, it can be difficult to bring these injustices to the attention of policy makers.

Fear of Loss is a Greater Motivator than Opportunity for Gain
Some believe, contrary to the results they have been able to produce, that grass roots activism has a significant influence on policy direction. There is no doubt that grass roots can have its place, especially in the legislative arena. Ten years ago, when I was the CEO of a trade association, we mounted a massive grass roots campaign defeating HR 669 in the House Natural Resources Committee. Our 50,000 hand written letters had to be carted into committee, and gave members more than enough cover to kill HR 669. However, “fear of loss” motivated that unprecedented response at committee. We are now talking about “opportunity for gain.” If you have been unable to accomplish your agency goals, it is unlikely that writing more letters and making more calls will provide the political leverage needed to effect that change. It can help, but it won’t win the day.

You Need a Plan
Don’t get me wrong, grass roots activism can be very effective, but it works best when it is part and parcel of a comprehensive strategy, not the alpha and omega of your advocacy efforts. You must have a comprehensive plan that sets benchmarks and creates an integrated blueprint for business, communications, fundraising and government affairs. If you can’t clearly see how to reach your goals, the chances of realizing them are slim to none. One thing is for sure, if you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always gotten.

It would be a monumental waste for stakeholders not to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity for gains in the wildlife sector. Whether it’s making new law, roll-back of bad regulations, or holding agencies accountable, it won’t happen by itself. In order to realize positive change, you must be able to open doors and get your issues in front of those who can make a real difference. You need a plan. It’s not too late, but you have to be in the game to have a chance to win.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of professional advocacy?
  • Does grass roots advocacy really work?
  • How do I create a strategic business/government affairs plan? 
  • Is a communications strategy important?
  • What is the difference between a bill and a proposed rule?
  • How do we get a rule “rolled back?”
  • Can we get permitting expedited?
  • How can creating a caucus help?
  • What is an issue campaign?
  • How do we get more than “lip service” from my member of congress?
  • How do we get accountable answers from federal agencies?
  • Why don’t agency employees care what we want?
  • How can we raise funds to pay for advocacy/legal assistance?

Andrew Wyatt is a government affairs and policy consultant that works exclusively in the wildlife sector.

WyattP1“Wildlife issues are highly charged and contentious. I specialize in articulating clear policy ideas and getting them in front of key decision makers. Please follow ‘The Last Word on Wildlife’ for insight and analysis particular to the 21st century wildlife sector. If you would like to discuss the potential advantages of creating a comprehensive business/government affairs strategy, or a more targeted issue campaign, please call or email me.” ~ Andrew Wyatt


© Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word on Wildlife, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word on Wildlife with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Animal Rights – Fundraising Wrongs ~ Part II

Pacelle Money

Morality and Ethics ~ The Ends Justify the Means
Animal rights groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Born Free USA, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), seek to  claim the “moral high ground” on behalf of animals. However, that “high ground” stands on a shaky foundation of exaggerations of the truth, intimidation of the opposition, and risky games of  legal hi-jinx with donor money. This approach to fundraising uses divisive tactics like PETA-porn to create a mob mentality around animal issues. Impassioned people are motivated to donate money, and manipulating facts and manufacturing evidence may help achieve fundraising goals if it can sufficiently outrage your donor base.

RICO Act Lawsuit and Witness Tampering
This Summer the sins of HSUS hit home with a real vengeance when HSUS, Born Free USA and other co-defendants agreed to pay $15.75 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed against them by Feld Entertainment under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. As a result, the charity watchdog group, Charity Navigator, revoked HSUS’ mediocre 3-star rating and issued a “Donor Advisory” warning. Charity Navigator issued the warning soon after news of the HSUS settlement made the news. The animal rights behemoth lost its insurance coverage in 2010 likely putting donors on the hook for HSUS’ legal misadventures. As a co-defendant in the RICO lawsuit, the ASPCA agreed to settle for $9.3 million in late 2012.

The RICO lawsuit was filed in response to a “frivolous” Endangered Species Act (ESA) suit filed against Feld 14 years ago by HSUS and company. Court documents revealed that, “In the original ESA lawsuit, Feld Entertainment discovered the animal rights groups and their lawyers had paid over $190,000 to a former circus employee, Tom Rider, to be a ‘paid plaintiff.’ The Court also found that the animal rights groups and their attorneys ‘sought to conceal the nature, extent and purpose of the payments’ during the litigation. Their abuse of the judicial system included the issuance of a false statement under oath by Rider, assisted by his counsel, who the Court found was ‘the same attorney who was paying him’ to participate in the litigation. The Court found in addition to Rider being a ‘paid plaintiff,’ that the lawsuit was ‘frivolous and vexatious.'”

Hate-Speak Attacks on Children

Kendall-Jones-school

Kendall Jones ~ Facebook

Teenager Kendall Jones suffered an unrestrained attack via social media earlier this year. Jones, a 19 year old, American pie college student became the poster child for anti-hunting by organizations in the animal rights industry that labeled her as a “killer and a murderer.” Several months ago she posted pictures from a legal African safari in which she participated. The vitriolic response that followed included threats against her life. For a period of time, Facebook hosted a Kill Kendall Jones Page, which has now been removed.  (Initially, the site refused to remove the threatening page, saying it did not rise to the level of genuine risk or physical harm.)

“I hope she [Kendal Jones] is in the news when it is to report she has been murdered and the murderer is holding her up as a trophy. Good riddance to scum like her.” ~Fan Comment on Born Free USA Facebook Page

In an article published in the Huffington Post, Jeffery Flocken, North American Director of IFAW, castigated the teen in front of a national audience, and used the opportunity to call all hunters, “killers.” Hunting is increasing in popularity with women representing the fastest growing demographic.

Kendall is a “straight-laced” college cheerleader caught in the cross hairs of the animal rights industry to gin up moral outrage. The furor that HSUS, Born Free USA, IFAW and other anti-hunting advocates generated has resulted in threats of violence.

Last week an 11 year old boy and his family received death threats after the boy legally harvested an albino deer in Michigan.  Death threats against a child.

“Kill that f__king brat!” ~Ashley Adams, Facebook

“The little boy is being pilloried with hurtful language and even getting death threats…” ~Ruben Navarrette, CNN

Dog Fighters for Donation Dollars
In 2007 NFL quarterback Michael Vick was arrested as the kingpin of a vast dog fighting operation based out of southeast Virginia. Within 24 hours of the news breaking, HSUS rolled out a fundraising campaign inferring that HSUS was providing “care for the dogs seized.” Wayne Pacelle, HSUS CEO, later admitted to The New York Times that HSUS was not actually caring for the dogs.

Michael Vick and Wayne Pacelle team up in the wake of felony dog fighting conviction ~NBC News

Michael Vick and Wayne Pacelle team up in the wake of felony dog fighting conviction ~NBC News

After Vick’s release from his two-year prison sentence for the dog fighting conviction, Pacelle joined forces with the NFL quarterback and embarked on a public relations campaign to rehabilitate Vick’s image. Perhaps not coincidentally, HSUS received a $50,000 donation from the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick’s new team. The ideological contradictions in pursuit of donations were not lost on Pacelle’s usually adoring fans. Followers of HSUS refused to forgive Vick for torturing dogs and Pacelle was roundly criticized for his hypocrisy.

Everything to Everyone… And Ebola Too
Wading into the high profile issue of the illegal ivory trade, last year Pacelle was quoted as saying, “China is the world’s largest consumer of illegal ivory, and the U.S. is second…” This statement is patently false. The US is the second largest legal market NOT illegal; a major distinction (Martin and Stiles, 2008). According to the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, Thailand is far and away the second largest market for illegal ivory behind China/Hong Kong. The fact is, all of the Asian countries have larger illegal markets for ivory than the U.S.

“The illegal proportion of it [U.S. ivory trade], however, is much smaller than any country in Asia and most countries in Africa. The USA ivory market poses a minimal threat to elephants…” ~Martin and Stiles, 2008

Last week both HSUS and IFAW  launched fundraising campaigns playing on the Ebola scare, implying some involvement in the fight against the impacts of the deadly disease. In a classic “bait and switch” strategy, HSUS’ financial commitment to help animals in the midst of the Ebola crisis in West Africa is 0.007% of its annual budget, a whopping $12,000.  The publicity HSUS will drum up with its dramatic blog posts of sad looking chimpanzees in Ebola-stricken Africa will quite likely generate many times that amount in donations from well-intentioned people who want to help.  The vast majority of donation dollars to HSUS find their way to fat pensions and slick lobbyists, not suffering animals.

Are these really the types of activities in which groups calling themselves animal charities should involve themselves? Are HSUS and company really charities, or are they professional lobbyists? The reality of this sordid intrigue is that these animal rights organizations are actively misleading donors into charitable donations, then using the money, not to “protect” animals, but diverting funds to pension funds, legislation, litigation and propaganda campaigns to institutionalize their radical ideology. HSUS and their ilk want to shut down farmers, zoos, circuses and hunting. This is the controversial manner in which they raise the money to do it.


© Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.