Trump Administration had “No Reasoned Explanation” for Creating a Trophy Hunting Council Stacked with Big Game Hunting Profiteers


Court Notes Council Excluded Information from Public Transcripts and May Have Conducted Secret Meetings


New York, N.Y. — This morning, a federal district court in New York rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Department of Interior’s International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), an advisory body comprised primarily of trophy hunting profiteers and firearm manufacturers. 


Democracy Forward, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International issued the following statement in response to the Court’s ruling in their case:


“The Court’s ruling is clear: The Trump administration has provided no reason for creating a trophy hunting council, stacking it with big game profiteers and operating it behind closed doors. IWCC members are already benefiting from the Trump administration’s rush to declare open season on the world’s lions, rhinos, and other species, and we will press forward in our efforts to shut down this illegal committee for good.”


Federal law requires government advisory panels to be in the public interest, fairly balanced, and protected against improper influence by special interests. In a near full denial of the administration’s motion to dismiss, the Court agreed that there are merits to the plaintiffs arguments, including that “[The administration] did not provide a reasoned explanation for the Council’s creation.” The Court also noted that:


  • The government’s efforts to argue that the Secretary of the Interior wasn’t required to explain why the committee’s creation was in the public interest is “plainly inconsistent with the bedrock principle of administrative law requiring a reasoned explanation for agency action.”
  • Plaintiffs are entitled to proceed on their claims that the membership of the panel is unfairly balanced in favor of individuals and organizations with a vested interest in trophy hunting, and lacks provisions necessary to prevent inappropriate influence by special interests.
  • Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the Council has conducted secret meetings and unlawfully withheld access to subcommittee meetings and documents related to those meetings.
  • The Council has failed to provide required transcripts for two of the four Council meetings and the available transcripts have omitted words which “not only excludes potentially relevant information, but renders the transcripts nearly incomprehensible.”


Former Dept. of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke created the IWCC in November 2017 with a mission of promoting the benefits of international trophy hunting. Trump’s Dept. of Interior rejected all nominations from conservation, public interest, or science groups, and instead stacked the Council with friendly political donors, firearm manufacturers, and advocates for trophy hunting, most of whom stand to personally benefit from their work on the Council. 


Recent reports revealed that John Jackson – a member of the IWCC – represents hunters who DOI permitted to import a lion and a black rhino killed in Tanzania and Namibia. In a Congressional hearing on July 18, 2019, Chairman Jared Huffman of the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife referred to the IWCC as a “sham advisory committee” and noted that “clearly the administration doesn’t consider itself bound by the Federal Advisory Committee Act.”