Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate in mid-October would preempt states from banning walrus ivory or whale bone products that were legally carved by Alaska Natives under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
S.1965, the Allowing Alaska IVORY Act, sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, would also preempt states from issuing bans on mammoth ivory products.
“A number of states have enacted legislation claimed to be aimed at combating the illicit elephant ivory trade, which is something we all want to fight,” Murkowski said. “However, the legislation being passed by many of these states would prevent Americans from purchasing and possessing traditional Alaska Native handicrafts derived from marine mammal and locally found fossilized Mammoth ivory, thus destroying a legal and culturally rich economic source for many Alaska Natives.
“Sadly, state ivory bans were enacted without any attempt at consultation with indigenous groups who create this type of cultural art or lawmakers from states where it is part of our history.”
Sullivan added that the “(U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service and members of the conservation community have recognized that these broad state bans have little benefit to combatting the poaching problem, while creating confusion on the part of buyers of Alaska ivory.”
The bill would carry out “the true intent of existing laws to allow Alaska Natives and Alaskans to responsibly use their resources to access economic opportunity while maintaining centuries old cultural practices,” he said.
The Alaska congressional delegation also wrote to the National Governors Association and National Conference of State Legislatures to note the “potentially devastating and unintended consequences of broadly crafted state ivory bans that are currently in place or under consideration in nearly half of the United States.”
Ivory bans by various states designed to combat the illegal trade of African and Indian elephant ivory have confused consumers as to what other ivory products are legal, resulting in decreased demand for legal Alaska Native handicraft and mammoth ivory carvings, they said.