Bill to prohibit ivory and rhinoceros horn trade moves ahead

The Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Legacy Committee heard and approved a bill this week that clamps down on the ivory and rhino horn trade by prohibiting the sale of these products in Minnesota. This bill aligns Minnesota law with federal interstate commerce regulations by placing a prohibition on intrastate commerce. It does not criminalize possession of ivory, rhino horn, or other prohibited animal parts that are currently owned by Minnesota residents, nor does it prohibit inheritance or noncommercial gifts.

Poachers across Africa and Asia have largely contributed to pushing these animals to the brink of extinction because of high demand for their horns and tusks. The U.S. is one of the biggest markets for illegal ivory. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that between 2010 and 2015, over 1,000 shipments of ivory – or over 12,000 items – came through Chicago’s ports.

While federal regulations were instituted in 2016 to ban the commercial trade of ivory, including a ban on state-to-state trading, the law does not restrict commerce within the state. This bill strengthens state-level protections by largely mirroring the federal regulations and applying the federal standard governing interstate trade to trade within Minnesota.

In an effort to help stop illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking networks in Africa from killing elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns, several states have passed, and others are considering, legislation to ban ivory and rhinoceros horn trade within their borders. States that have enacted such legislation are California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Illinois.

The bill will be heard next by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. (SF 1505)