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Wednesday, February 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: I-1401 will help protect endangered species

With today’s editorial supporting Initiative 1401, The Spokesman-Review begins its rollout of endorsements for the Nov. 3 election.

Before we start, we above all want to encourage voters to seek out as much information as possible about the candidates and the several propositions and initiatives that will appear on the ballot. With, for example, three different Proposition 1s in play – in Spokane County, the city of Spokane and the city of Cheney – the potential for confusion is obvious. Study up.

Judging by the flow of letters to the editor, and voter turnout in the August primary, interest in this year’s off-election is low. That’s a mistake. Voters have their maximum leverage in local elections.

When your ballot arrives in the mailbox late next week, please, do not ignore it. The vitality of your state and community depend on your participation.

Now, to I-1401, the Washington Animal Trafficking Initiative. Vote yes.

The proposal will make the sale of parts from some of the world’s most endangered species a misdemeanor or class-C felony, depending on the value of the ivory, pelts, etc. Among the animals “covered” are elephants, rhinoceros, big cats such as tigers, sharks, rays and pangolins, which are more commonly known as spiny anteaters.

The murder of these creatures for their ivory, their horns or their fins is grotesque. Tens of thousands of elephants are slain each year, many by poachers killing indiscriminately with automatic weapons.

Most of the ivory is shipped to Asia, where prices have tripled in recent years. Regulation of the trade there is flimsy, at best.

There is a market in the United States. The Ports of Seattle/Tacoma are a significant entry point, with about 50 ivory seizures over the last five years. Some also comes over the border from Canada. If California and Oregon also prohibit trafficking – and efforts are underway in both states to do just that – a solid West Coast barrier to the trade will be in place.

New York and New Jersey also are closing their ports to ivory trading.

Initiative opponents say state action is unnecessary and will penalize owners of existing ivory objects. The exemptions carved out in the initiative for antiques, musical instruments and any object with an ivory content of less than 15 percent, or transfers made during the settlement of an estate, are more than adequate.

Can Washington stop the slaughter of the elephants in Africa, tigers in Asia, or sharks on the high seas? The obvious answer is no.

But we might save some if the financial inducements for traffickers are removed. I-1401 does just that, and adds appropriate penalties for the crime – and the wholesale destruction of species is a crime.

Respect for nature is almost bred into Washingtonians, and the lions on Africa’s savannahs deserve the same regard we hold for the salmon in our rivers or the elk in our mountains.

Vote yes on I-1401 to help preserve this world’s irreplaceable wonders.

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