Sam Jojola

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Background

“This article was originally published for World Animal News in November, 2015 and titled “Wildlife Crimes: Why Is It So Difficult to Enforce Laws”. This is an updated version that includes reference to a 2016 GAO report detailing the shortcomings and successes of combating wildlife trafficking. It often seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There are some positive changes, but they are slow.”

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Global Anti-Poaching Act of 2015

The passage of the Global Anti-Poaching Act (H.R. 2494) through the House on June 25, 2015 was long overdue and very encouraging news for wildlife law enforcement. It will greatly assist in addressing the rapid expansion of wildlife criminal syndicates and terrorist groups globally. Finally, after decades of “paralysis by analysis” there is some political motivation in the U.S. to deal with the exponential growth of wildlife crime here and around the world. Why has it taken so long?

The most recent GAO report dated September, 2016 titled Combating Wildlife Trafficking: Agencies are taking a range of actions but the task force lacks performance targets for assessing progress: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/679968.pdf

Perhaps there will be another GAO report this year to show measurable progress.

Layers of bureaucracy and political meddling

When one examines the primary agency responsible for investigating wildlife crimes on the federal level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement (USFWS/OLE) has been and is the lead entity to do so. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is primarily a biological entity under the umbrella of the Department of the Interior that oversees a host of at least nine (9) agencies, like the U.S. Park Service (USPS), the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to name a few. The USFWS/OLE is just one of fifteen (15) National programs managed by USFWS. In essence many layers of government within the Department of the Interior which is not a law enforcement entity like the Department of Justice. Other law enforcement agencies like the FBI, DEA, ATF, ICE, and the Secret Service, are not under the umbrella of a non-law enforcement entity that can sometimes run political interference and impede wildlife investigations and protection.

There are a number of glaring examples over the decades where political meddling by high level non-law enforcement leaders were persuaded by the interests of well-connected trophy hunters or landowners to “bend the rules” and give a seized hunting trophy back or not pursue an investigation into violations of federal wildlife laws. You won’t find these examples on the Internet as they are buried in the minds of former agents like myself or in obscure articles from the 1980’s and 1990’s hidden in library archives or this amazing October, 1996 29 page account from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER): https://www.peer.org/assets/docs/whitepapers/1996_tarnished_trophies.pdf

Here is a more recent account of a colleague of mine who was forced into retirement several years ago after he reported political interference and scientific misconduct in USFWS: http://www.hcn.org/articles/u-s-fish-and-wildlife-whistleblower-retaliation-case-raises-questions#commenting.

Just Google “USFWS political meddling into wildlife science based decisions” and a disturbing pattern of pages emerge over the years where politics overrides the protection of key species such as Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Wolverines and other species of concern.

Historical Neglect of Federal Wildlife Law Enforcement

Realistically, there has been a serious historical neglect in the numbers of Special Agents in the USFWS/OLE with a number that has hovered between 190 agents in the early 1980’s to the number of about 205 Special Agents as of February, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/12/us/politics/obama-administration-to-target-illegal-wildlife-trafficking.html). I have seen a report of “only some”250 USFWS Special Agents quoted in an official 2013 document, but those numbers can change dramatically in just one year, usually to a lesser number due to attrition.

Over three decades of historical neglect is egregiously long enough.

Compare the number USFWS/OLE Special Agents to the numbers of FBI Special Agents which is reportedly somewhere around 13,500. When I began my career in the LA area with USFWS/OLE in 1983, the FBI office in LA had over 400 Special Agents alone and the USFWS Division of Law Enforcement as it was named then had less than 200 nationwide. I worked out of Long Beach with only 2 other field agents. There was 1 agent in each of the following cities in our area; San Diego, Fresno, and San Luis Obispo and one supervisor (7 total) for all of Southern California. Federal wildlife law enforcement was not a political priority then and changes are too slow. You can see how USFWS/OLE and other federal law enforcement agencies are structured on Wikipedia: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Fish_and_Wildlife_Service_Office_of_Law_Enforcement).

Multi-Agency Task Force for Transnational Wildlife Crime Syndicates

A multi-agency task force is needed to follow-up on the 2015 passage of The Global Anti-Poaching Act. This has been and is a national security threat that needs spontaneous and immediate global thinking and analytical planning. There is no time for impeding bureaucracy, politics and the usual delays and hand wringing. It’s time for aggressive positive change to show the world we are truly serious about greatly and rapidly diminishing wildlife resources across the planet.

U.S. Government law enforcement task force investigations work well providing there are great leaders with prior law enforcement field expertise who can carefully organize and orchestrate experienced field agents from various federal and/or state agencies to address key targets in an often long term and complex strategy that produce successful results. From 2004 to mid-2006, I had the privilege of working an informal task force with some dynamic agents from the IRS, FBI and ICE on an Israeli merchant syndicate we were investigating for a multitude of federal crimes. It was a long and complex case that culminated with over 150 agents from the above agencies executing 12 simultaneous search warrants and a number of arrests in San Francisco in early 2006 (http://articles.latimes.com/2006/jan/06/local/me-stores6).

Ideally, a multi-agency task force to address the current global wildlife crises should be comprised of highly experienced field agents from the CIA, FBI, IRS, Department of State (DSS), ICE, and USFWS/OLE. This task force should also have someone from the NSA. There should be several intelligence analysts from several agencies that would coordinate with Interpol and NGO’s that have credible intelligence on ongoing illegal poaching in key countries. Our government needs to do a better job working with NGO’s when it comes to addressing federal wildlife crime.

Special Operations forces needed to address global Wildlife Crime

Lastly, there should be a specialized dedicated group of highly trained Special Ops personnel taken from segments of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. This group would focus on the not only the training of anti-poaching rangers in various African countries, but on the ground special operations that would neutralize the various entities of terrorist and poaching elements involved in exterminating the world’s wildlife resources. We need to implement the use of sophisticated military satellite and drone technology to make a difference.

What better use for our country’s law enforcement, military, drones and satellite technology than saving some of the most grand and iconic species in our world?

This would be one war that would be for the best intentions and the best possible outcome of saving what is left before it is all gone.

Sam Jojola

Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.”- Stewart Udall – Secretary of the Interior from 1961-1969 (1920-2010)

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