With her push to end the illegal ivory and rhinoceros horn trade, state Rep. Lori Ehrlich is providing an excellent example of an elected official thinking globally to act locally.
Ehrlich, who represents Marblehead, Swampscott and part of Lynn, and state Sen. Jason Lewis co-sponsored legislation to increase state protections against trafficking. With her typically meticulous attention to detail, Ehrlich working with Lewis proposed creating a state fund with the goal of expanding education and enforcement efforts aimed at ending trafficking.
Every elected official has critics and it would be easy for Ehrlich’s to suggest she focus on concerns of immediate interest to the communities she represents instead of pursuing problems spanning continents and state borders.
But Ehrlich makes a compelling case for why illegal rhino and ivory trade is a local problem by pointing out that a $700,000 illegal trade case pursued by federal authorities involved a shipping business located in Concord, a small community very similar to Marblehead.
Ehrlich also cites federal statistics in noting that illegal trafficking in ivory and horn from the port of Boston involves ivory and horns valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. “We cannot stand idly by and remain complicit in this,” Ehrlich stated.
She has applied that same standard to other concerns she has pursued as a legislator, including safe natural gas regulation and efforts aimed at ending discrimination. In her bid to get utilities to better identify gas leaks and her success in rallying groups in her district against hatred, Ehrlich has shown an unerring ability to focus widespread concerns on local needs.
She has never turned her back on a concern brought to her attention by fellow legislators or constituents and said, “Well, this doesn’t really affect my district.” She has taken the opposite stance by pinpointing concerns and asking, “What is the local impact of this problem?”
Ehrlich in 2015 met with former President Clinton to condemn the illegal ivory trade and the cruelty that attends ivory and horn trafficking. That meeting put her in the national limelight but Ehrlich wasn’t content to simply highlight a concern and then move onto another legislative topic. She has continued the fight against trafficking, joining forces with Lewis, who warned Massachusetts must take steps to stand with other states with ports, like New York and California, and launch total war on the illegal trafficking trade, including attempts to use legitimate dealers to launder illegal ivory.
As her bill proceeds through the state Legislature, Ehrlich is sure to enlist allies from animal protection societies as well as school children inspired to act locally by thinking globally and legitimate arts or crafts dealers committed to ending a bloody and brutal trade.
She will have solid ground to stand on when she demands answers for why federal laws prohibiting interstate ivory trade should not be matched with state regulations in Massachusetts mirroring the legislative example set by other states.
Ehrlich has proven she will not rest in pursuing a just cause and will not be deterred by arguments about cost or jurisdiction when it comes to ensuring justice is served. Her stance on ending the poaching of elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns and the resulting sale of illegal ivory and horn is commendable.