(CN) – The DC Circuit ruled Friday that the Obama administration failed to follow the right procedures when it banned importing elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Edwards said the Fish and Wildlife Service under President Obama should have engaged in an extensive process of rulemaking — including seeking public comment — before it determined that elephant trophies cannot be brought into the country.
“In this case, the 2014 and 2015 enhancement findings had all of the qualities of a legislative rule, so the Service was obligated to follow the [Administrative Procedure Act’s] notice-and-comment procedures before promulgating the findings,” Edwards wrote.
The Fish and Wildlife Service reversed the ban in November, a move roundly and loudly criticized by environmentalists and many lawmakers of both parties. In a bid to quell the controversy, President Donald Trump put the decision on hold and directed the agency to take another look at the issue.
No deadline has been set for a decision and the matter was not addressed before the president headed to Palm Beach, Florida, for Christmas.
While the DC Circuit’s ruling focuses on the actions of a past administration, it could force the Trump administration to go through a similar rulemaking process to repeal the ban.