A former Hillsboro state senator is doing his best to save the African elephant and other endangered animals from going extinct on the other side of the planet.
Bruce Starr, a Republican from Hillsboro, is the chief petitioner and public face of Save Endangered Animals Oregon, a coalition of animal protection and conservation workers aiming to place a ballot measure before voters this fall which would make it illegal to sell products made from endangered animals.
Starr served in the Oregon Legislature from 1998 to 2014 when he narrowly lost a re-election bid to current State Senator Chuck Riley.
In Salem, Starr supported legislation that worked to protect animals. He said he jumped at the chance to work with the campaign.
“This is a no brainer,” he told Pamplin Media Group on Friday. “Especially when you look at what this measure does and the impact that Oregon can have to shut down the trade along the West Coast? Of course I’d support it.”
The measure, known as IP68, would ban the sale of endangered animal parts, including products made from endangered animals, such as sea turtles, sharks, elephants, rhinos and cheetahs.
For months, the campaign has been collecting signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. On Thursday, Starr and other volunteers with the campaign delivered more than 150,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.
Those signatures still need to be verified, but if all goes as planned, Kristin Leppert, campaign director for Save Endangered Animals Oregon said that voters will get the chance to weigh in on the important issue.
“Oregonians do not want to partake in the shameful wildlife trade that incentivizes poaching cruelty and pushes many beloved wild animals to the brink of extinction,” said Leppert. “We look forward to passing this landmark conservation measure in November.”
Starr said that the United States is one of the largest markets for wildlife products. It is illegal for Oregon residents to keep lions and tigers as pets, and importing endangered animal parts and products into the U.S. is illegal at the federal level, but once the goods are smuggled in, Oregon has no law stopping their sale, Starr said.
“Most people are a little bit surprised to find that’s not already illegal,” Starr said. “The loop hole we are closing means that once a smuggler successfully brings it in."
Oregon’s law closely mirrors one voters in Washington passed last year by a 3-to-1 margin. California, Hawaii, New York and New Jersey have also made the sale of endangered animal parts illegal.
Starr said the measure’s message is an easy sell for voters.
“The vast majority of Oregonians are going to support this,” Starr said, matter-of-factly. “In Washington, it passed in every single county in the state, including the more conservative counties in the east. ... Once people know what it’s about, it’s a no brainer. Oregonians across the state want to protect these animals.”
Starr isn’t the only recognizable name working on the campaign. Hillsboro resident and Metro Chairman Tom Hughes is also listed as chief petitioner, as is U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer.
“With the submission of the petitions, Oregon is one giant step towards saving these imperiled species,” Hughes said. “Elephants and rhinos and other animals covered in the ballot measure are disappearing at an alarming rate due to unprecedented levels of poaching and consumer demand. We will continue pressing forward our campaign in earnest until we successfully pass this measure in November.”
The final day to submit petitions for the November election was Friday, July 8.