FERNANDINA BEACH, FL (December 12, 2018) – The Elephant Project founder, Dane Waters, today accused the Department of Interior of installing a new roadblock in its effort to undermine transparency and the timely release of public documents when Secretary Ryan Zinke installed Daniel Jorjani as the head of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program. The reorganization of Interior's FOIA program is just the latest attempt to halt the release of documents like those requested by The Elephant Project in May – seven months ago.
“First, Secretary (Ryan) Zinke fills the Interior Department’s International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC) with big game hunters and no bonafide conservationists, then he is investigated by the US Justice Department for multiple ethics violations, and now he is politicizing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program by inserting yet another crony to run it,” The Elephant Project Founder and President Dane Waters said. “Zinke is continuing his pattern of covering up both his own conflicts of interest and those of President Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.”
Federal law requires all federal agencies to respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days after the request is received, unless there are unusual circumstances. The Elephant Project filed a FOIA request on May 15, 2018 for all documents relating to the establishment of the IWCC, an official advisory group announced more than a year ago on November 8, 2017. The Council was created in conjunction with the reversal of the importation of elephant trophies policy outlined in a March 1, 2018, memorandum from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Secretary Zinke has shrouded the Department generally, and his actions specifically, since day one. His assault on transparency is anathema to American values and belies the long-standing tradition of ensuring the American public has access to information about government functions,” noted Adam M. Roberts, senior advisor to The Elephant Project. “The most simple and obvious question applies here: what is Zinke trying to hide?”
The duty of this newly created board is to develop “a plan for public engagement and education on the benefits of international hunting,” according to its formation documents. In other words, despite its name, the IWCC is designed to promote the killing of elephants under the guise of conservation using taxpayer dollars.
The group is required to fill its board with hunters with international hunting experience, and senior-level representatives from companies in international hunting tourism, and those in the firearms trade. Yet no such requirement exists for members to have wildlife conservation backgrounds. In addition, the IWCC counts among its members a co-owner of a hunting preserve with Donald Trump Jr.
“If there is any hope of preventing regional extinctions of significant species such as elephants across the globe, the United States must play a lead role in conservation and wildlife protection,” Waters added. “A key component to that leadership is public support for conservation, which begins with a vibrant understanding of what the government is doing. It’s time for the Department of the Interior to shine a bright light on its nefarious inner-workings.”