To the Senate:

     Pursuant to Article V, Section I, Paragraph 14 of the New Jersey Constitution, I am returning Senate Bill No. 978 with my recommendations for reconsideration.

Senate Bill No. 977 and Senate Bill No. 978 were introduced after the death of “Cecil the Lion,” whose killing by a big game hunter in Zimbabwe sparked anger around the world.  In essence, these bills seek to discourage big game hunting overseas by prohibiting the trophies from these hunts from entering New Jersey.  In general, Senate Bill No. 977 would prohibit the possession, import or sale of the parts of certain species in New Jersey.  Senate Bill No. 978 would specifically prohibit the parts of the same species from entering the ports and airports operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  

More specifically, Senate Bill No. 977 would ban the importation or possession of the parts of any of the “Big Five” African species, i.e., the African lion, the African leopard, the African elephant, the white and black rhinoceros, and the Cape buffalo.  The bill would also prohibit a person from bringing into the State the parts of any lion, tiger, elephant, or other specified types of animals that are listed in Appendix I or II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (“CITES”), an international treaty to which the United States is a signatory.  The bill would also bar the parts of these types of animals from the State if they are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (“IUCN”), a well-known nongovernmental organization that, among other things, classifies species based on their risk of extinction. 

I will endorse reasonable measures that help protect threatened species.  Unfortunately, these bills contain provisions that are not reasonable, and therefore, I cannot sign these bills in their current form.  Perhaps most troubling are the provisions that would require existing owners of covered items to register them with the Department of Environmental Protection, or else face daily fines.  It is not hard to imagine how this unwieldy and potentially costly registration scheme could catch many by surprise, subjecting them to unfair penalties.  Accordingly, I recommend that the bills impose a prospective ban, but not apply new prohibitions on covered animal parts already possessed within our State.

I am also concerned that the bills could interfere with interstate and international commerce, since the bills contain provisions that would prevent covered products, even with appropriate permits, from merely passing through the State, its ports, or airports.  These provisions would not only necessitate impractical inspection procedures, but again, could sweep up unsuspecting persons (particularly those from out-of-state) who logically assume that a federal permit would enable them to transport covered products through the State or port facility therein.  Therefore, I recommend changes that would allow a covered product to be brought into the State, under appropriate permit, but only if it is destined for a location outside the State.

I further propose other changes that will improve these bills.  For example, I recommend that the bills protect the CITES-listed species, but not incorporate by reference the IUCN’s list of vulnerable, threatened and endangered species.  This is because the IUCN is an independent organization whose lists are subject to change and therefore should not carry the force of law in our State.  CITES, by contrast, is a formal treaty signed by our government.  Another change I propose is to remove specific references to the Cape buffalo, a species that the IUCN itself considers to be of “least concern” when it comes to extinction risk.  I believe it important that the bills remain focused on species threatened with extinction, consistent with their stated purpose.  Finally, I recommend changes that would expressly allow law enforcement agents to carry out their duties without inadvertently running afoul of the prohibitions set forth in these bills.  These latter amendments are modeled after an exception included within the aforementioned legislation concerning ivory and rhinoceros horn.    

Importantly, with my amendments, these bills prospectively would prohibit a person from importing parts of covered species (including the African lion) and keeping them in our State.  Of course, no state legislation could ever, by itself outlaw trophy hunts conducted overseas.  There are significant questions whether such bans help or actually hurt wildlife conservation.    If these bills are returned to me as I propose, however, we can be confident that the body parts of endangered animals will no longer be welcome in New Jersey.

Accordingly, I herewith return Senate Bill No. 978 and recommend that it be amended as follows:

Page 2, Section 1, Line 10:          Delete “Big five” and insert “Specified”


Page 2, Section 1, Line 12:          After “diceros bicornis” delete “,” and insert “;”


Page 2, Section 1, Line 13:          Delete “; and Cape buffalo, Syncerus caffer


Page 2, Section 1, Line 14:          Delete “big five” and insert “specified”


Page 2, Section 1, Line 16:          Delete “: (a)”


Page 2, Section 1, Line 18:          Delete “; or (b) as critically endangered,” and insert “.”


Page 2, Section 1, Lines 19-20:      Delete in their entirety


Page 2, Section 1, Line 33:          Delete “Unless the activity is prohibited by federal law, the” and insert “The”


Page 2, Section 1, Line 39:          Delete “, and the legal owner has obtained a certificate of possession from” and insert “;”


Page 2, Section 1, Lines 40-43:      Delete in their entirety


Page 2, Section 1, Line 46:          Delete “, provided that the part or product is not thereafter” and insert “;”


Page 2, Section 1, Lines 47-48:      Delete in their entirety


Page 3, Section 1, Line 7:           Delete “.” and insert “;

(4) the part or product is imported, exported, shipped, received, possessed, processed, sold, offered for sale, or transported by an employee or agent of the federal government, the State government, or a bi-state agency, in the course of undertaking any law enforcement activities pursuant to federal or State law, or  other mandatory duties required by federal or State law; or

(5) the part or product entered the State of New Jersey or the State of New York from a point outside either state, including a point outside the territorial limits of the United States, was intended for transport across the State of New Jersey or the State of New York, but was destined for a point beyond the State of New Jersey or the State of New York, and the part or product conforms with the terms of any federal permit or permit issued under the laws or regulations of a state other than the State of New Jersey or the State of New York.”


Page 3, Section 1, Line 8:           Delete “shall” and insert “may”


Page 3, Section 1, Line 11:          Delete “These rules and regulations shall include a”


Page 4, Section 1, Lines 12-15:      Delete in their entirety


Page 4, Section 1, Line 21:          Delete “and, notwithstanding the” and insert “.”


Page 4, Section 1, Lines 22-23:      Delete in their entirety




     [seal]                          /s/ Chris Christie






/s/ Thomas P. Scrivo


Chief Counsel to the Governor