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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

April 29, 1999
Patricia Fisher 202-208-5634
Sandra Cleva 703-358-1949


In an effort to reduce the disproportionate economic burden of user fees on those who trap, hunt, and trade small quantities of furs to supplement their income, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is exempting North American fur shipments that meet specific requirements from some of the fees charged under its wildlife import/export regulations. A new rule published in the Federal Register today grants economic relief to these low-volume shippers while allowing the Service to maintain an effective inspection program for the U.S. wildlife trade.

Commercial importers and exporters of wildlife and wildlife products typically pay user fees to the Service for each shipment they bring into or out of the United States. These fees include a $55 inspection charge at the Nation's 13 designated ports and higher administrative fees if goods are shipped through other approved locations. The current fee system was established in 1996 to allow the Service to recoup more of the costs of the wildlife inspection program from the companies that use it.

The new rule, which goes into effect 30 days from now, waives these basic inspection and administrative fees for shipments that meet specific criteria. The fee exemption applies only to shipments containing 100 or fewer raw furs; raw, salted, or crusted hides or skins; or separate parts of furs, hides, and skins from animals legally taken from the wild in the United States, Canada, or Mexico that are imported or exported between the United States and Canada or Mexico.

The exemption does not cover shipments that require permits under Federal wildlife protection laws, such as those for endangered or threatened species, or that contain furs from animals subject to trade controls under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Nor does it apply to manufactured products or live animals of any kind.

To qualify for the fee exemption, the wildlife shipment must be imported or exported by the person who took the animal from the wild or by a member of that person's immediate family: spouse, parent, sibling, or child. The contents of the shipment cannot have been previously bought or sold, and the importer or exporter must hold a valid wildlife import/export license.

These criteria are designed to limit the fee exemption to people who operate small, low-volume businesses that trade limited numbers of furs and to individuals who hunt or trap as a hobby or to supplement their income. Those covered by the exemption will still have to obtain an import/export license from the Service at an annual cost of $50, file a wildlife import/export declaration for each shipment, and pay any overtime fees or other charges associated with inspection and clearance of the shipment. Exports from some locations, for example, may require a $25 port exception permit.

Individuals claiming the exemption will also be required to certify that they or a family member took the animals from the wild and that the furs in the shipment have not been previously bought or sold. Anyone filing a false certification will be subject to penalties established under Federal law for making false or fraudulent statements. These penalties include maximum prison terms of up to 5 years and fines as high as $250,000.

The Service's wildlife inspection program helps the Nation control the import and export of wildlife and wildlife products. Its staff of trained inspectors, stationed at U.S. ports of entry and border crossings, provides a front-line defense against illegal wildlife trafficking--a threat to animal species worldwide.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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