Approximately three months have passed since U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) took the unprecedented action of adding four constricting snakes to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. Never before have animals widely held by the American public been listed. Originally FWS suggested the addition of all of Boa, Python and Eunectes. The list was whittled down to nine constricting snakes after the highly controversial “Risk Assessment” was published by Gordon Rodda and Robert Reed of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The final rule was announced in January 2012. USARK was able to block five of the nine proposed snakes by taking dynamic action against the rule. Never before had a Injurious Wildlife listing been challenged or blocked. Nevertheless, the final rule was enacted March 23rd 2012 with four constricting snakes.
From the very beginning of this process USARK has been very careful to lay the groundwork and establish the public record that would afford us the ability to take legal action if necessary. Scientists from all over the world have criticized the sloppy and speculative work used by FWS to justify Lacey Act listing. In 2010 USARK filed a formal challenge of the USGS “Risk Assessment” under the Information Quality Act. In 2011 Georgetown Economic Services (GES) published “The Modern Reptile Industry”, an independent and comprehensive economic survey that included the impact that a Lacey Act listing was likely to have on legitimate business interests. The GES report demonstrated how the listing could impact as much as $104 million in trade annually. USARK built a clear and convincing case that FWS was potentially arbitrary and capricious in their zeal for a listing.
USARK and its counsel are carefully reviewing their legal options for addressing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s unwarranted listing of four constricting snakes, including Burmese pythons, on the Lacey Act’s Injurious Wildlife list. We believe the listing decision was precipitous, unsupported by the best available science, and poor policy. USARK is also concerned about the five other species of snakes, including Boa constrictor, that FWS has deferred addressing.
We believe FWS has exceeded its Lacey Act authority in terms of the breadth of the restrictions placed on the four listed species. The organization will continue to develop its legal theories and develop a plan for addressing the industry’s legitimate concerns with the proposed and final rules.
These legal maneuvers are not inexpensive, and will be even more costly if it is necessary to file a federal lawsuit. Our goal is to raise $250,000 between now and the end of the year. This is only a start. If we file a lawsuit it could easily require twice that amount. FWS doesn’t think that the Reptile Nation is capable of fielding a serious legal challenge to their arbitrary Lacey Act listing. They don’t think we can raise the money. We have waited until our legal team gave us the word that they felt we have a strong and clear course of action to follow. Now is the time for the Reptile Nation to stand up and take back what is ours!
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