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Obama administration didn't follow rules on elephant trophy ban, court says

122217 Correll Elephants pic
A federal appeals court ruled that the Obama administration did not complete the correct procedure to implement the ban on the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo, File)

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Obama administration did not undergo the correct procedure to prohibit elephant hunting trophies from being brought into the U.S. from Zimbabwe.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit claimed the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service should have completed a thorough process of proposing the ban. This means the public should have been allowed to comments and the regulation should have been finalized when it made determinations elephant trophies were prohibited from being imported to the U.S.

The court’s decision comes as the Trump administration is weighing reversing the ban to allow elephant body parts that are hunted in Zimbabwe back to the U.S.

Although the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed the Obama-era ban in November, President Trump said he put the decision on hold. He has not addressed the issue since, and neither have members of the administration.

As a result, it appears repealing the regulation would also require completing a thorough rule-making procedure, as the Obama administration should have done.

“In this case, the 2014 and 2015 enhancement findings had all of the qualities of a legislative rule, so the Service was obligated to follow the [Administrative Procedure Act’s] notice-and-comment procedures before promulgating the findings,” Judge Harry Edwards wrote in the ruling.

Although the procedure the Obama administration used was deemed incorrect, the substance of the ban was found to be lawful. The judges also said the ban did not meet the “arbitrary and capricious” standards courts utilize when determining if regulations are lawful or not.

“In this case, there is no serious dispute over the fact that the regulatory criteria for import were not satisfied,” Edwards said.