Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of live blogs from the QDMA North American Whitetail Summit.
Thanks to the “joys” of air travel in the midst of the polar vortex, I had the always-awkward task of trying to slip into a packed conference room at the QDMA North American Whitetail Summit in the middle of a presentation.
The first words I heard had me wondering if maybe the airlines had not only screwed up two days of travel with delays and cancellations, but maybe they’d dropped me off at the wrong damn place.
“The Gibson guitars case has cast a lot of attention on the law.”
After looking around and seeing a few familiar faces, I confirmed I was in the right spot. And it was time to figure out what, exactly, Gibson guitars had to do with whitetails. And what law was in question?
Well, turns out the law is one of vital importance to whitetails – and all of North America’s wildlife species, the Lacey Act.
In August of 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice reached a criminal enforcement agreement with Gibson Guitar Corp. after the company was found to be importing large quantities of wood from Madagascar and India.
The Lacey Act is a 1900 United States law that bans trafficking in illegal wildlife. In 2008, the Act was amended to include plants and plant products, such as timber and paper.
About the same time that the Lacey Act was being amended, the growth of captive cervid facilities (commercial deer and elk farms) was skyrocketing.
Carter Smith, with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, was the guy who brought up the Gibson guitar case and his point was this:
“Deer breeding and farming has grown to be a $3.6 billion industry and about $1 billion of that is in Texas,” he said. “A lot of people see it as a way to keep farmers in business. And maybe it is. But at what cost? We are seeing an assault on the Lacey Act because of the prosecution of Gibson guitars.”
The second tenet of the North American model of wildlife conservation prohibits the commercial sale of wildlife. The North American Model has been credited often for the protection, enhancement and long-term sustainability of wildlife populations in the United States.
But what happens if and when the Lacey Act is relaxed? Will it become easier to utilize wildlife for commercial purposes? Are deer held within a fence livestock or wildlife?
If we travel down the road of erosion of the North American Model’s second tenet, will we become more accepting of “farming” species most commonly known as wildlife?
Will we see an increasing number of captive cervid operations – operations that are largely believed to have been the root cause for diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease and Bovine Tuberculosis?
And what kind of message are we sending if, in the name of “progress,” we ease restrictions that enforce one of the primary tenets of the North American Model?