United States Association of Reptile Keepers Demands that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Withdraw Listings Proposals

Calls Listing of Four Constricting Snakes and Proposal to List Boas 
and Four Other Species “Arbitrary and Capricious”

USARK has contacted USFWS chief Dan Ashe to ask the Service to withdraw the listing of Burmese python and three other nonnative snake species as “injurious” under the Lacey Act and immediately publish a notice closing the book on the proposal to list boa constrictors, reticulated python, and three other species. USARK provided a detailed assessment of final and proposed rules' illegality in a 31-page letter prepared by the Association’s legal advisors.

USARK clearly demonstrated how the Service “cherry-picked” scientific evidence to build a case for the listings, while ignoring contrary studies and evidence undermining the U.S. Geological Service’s “climate matching” model on which the “injurious” finding is based. That study claimed, in a message that its authors, Robert Reed and Gordon Rodda, blasted to the press, that fully a third of the continental United States provides suitable habitat for Burmese python.

“FWS’ reliance on the flawed Reed/Rodda model led it to make absurd and plainly unlawful decisions,” said USARK President Phil Goss. “Finding the yellow anaconda, a snake found nowhere temperatures are below 50o or above 86o, such a grave threat to America is only one of the more obvious examples.”

In fact, several studies on cold python survival during the winter of 2009-2010, including one co-authored by Robert Reed, all found that the potential range of Burmese python is far more limited. The most authoritative of the studies show that these snakes and all the others proposed for listing cannot survive beyond the extreme southern tip of Florida. Yet, in what USARK argues is an “arbitrary and capricious” conclusion, USFWS determined that Burmese python could become established from Delaware, across the southern tier, and all the way up to Oregon.

USARK also criticized the environmental and economic analyses the Service used to support the rule. It unlawfully failed to respond to criticisms and contrary data presented by USARK, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and many scientists and academics. All raised important conservation concerns stemming from the listing – from loss of captive breeding programs and conservation research funded by reptile sales to the diversion of limited state resource agency funds and personnel. None of these issues were addressed in FWS’ environmental analysis required by the National Environmental Policy Act, better known as NEPA, nor were any of the cold weather studies even mentioned.

NEPA, one the nation’s oldest environmental laws, requires federal agencies to take a ‘hard look’ at the impacts of their actions. However, FWS did not account for any of these important issues before deciding to make criminals of responsible snake owners whose only crime is wanting to move to another state with their pet.

USARK has scheduled meetings to discuss our legal findings. If a satisfactory solution is not found, USARK will take all appropriate steps in defense of the industry.