African elephants are pictured on November 18, 2012 in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. AFP PHOTO MARTIN BUREAU        (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
Trump admin overturns ban on trophy imports
02:20 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

The federal government has quietly said it will consider big game trophy imports on a “case-by-case” basis, deciding an issue that split President Donald Trump and his Interior Department.

In November, Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service, under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, announced it would remove some Obama-era restrictions on importing trophies of elephants and lions.

Trump responded to news coverage of the decision by announcing he would “put (the) big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts.”

In January, he suggested the decision might be permanent: “I turned that order around,” he told British television personality Piers Morgan.

But a memorandum dated March 1 cites a recent appeals court ruling and withdraws a series of Endangered Species Act findings that apply to some African elephants, lions and bontebok, a type of antelope.

“The service intends to grant or deny permits to import a sport-hunted trophy on a case-by-case basis pursuant to its authorities under the” Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, the memo says.

The memo says that when reviewing applications for trophy imports, the agency will consider “the status of and management program for the species or population to ensure that the program is promoting the conservation of the species.”

RELATED: America’s stance on elephant trophies? It’s complicated

The Hill first reported the decision.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Supporters of big game hunting say the practice provides funding for conservation efforts and local economies. Opponents dispute that and say corruption in African governments means conservation funds may not be spent on conservation.