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House Republicans Say Interior Secretary's Proposed Snake Ban Bad for Business


Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee seem never to be at a loss for words when it comes to Democratic initiatives. This week the GOP members are shaking their heads over Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's efforts to get a grip on invasive snakes invading national parks in Florida.

Going so far as to produce an image reminiscent of those 1950s and 1960s horror film posters, the Republicans headed into a subcommittee hearing on Secretary Salazar's proposal with a suggestion that one and all Sit Back. Relax. Enjoy the Fright

Back in January the Interior secretary announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would propose to list the Burmese python and eight other large constrictor snakes that threaten the Everglades and other sensitive ecosystems as “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act. The secretary made the announcement at the Port of New York, which his staff says serves as the largest point of entry in the nation for imports of wildlife and wildlife products. Last year, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors at John F. Kennedy International Airport handled more than 27, 000 separate wildlife shipments valued at more than $1 billion, or 16 percent of all U.S. wildlife imports, according to a USFWS release.

This week the Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee assailed that move, saying it would hurt small business owners. They added that America's sportsmen should be used to help fight the snakes spreading out across Everglades National Park, but noted that "hunters are currently only allowed to hunt snakes with their hands or a machete, making the sport incredibly inefficient and unpopular."

Here's what else the GOP had to say:

“Injurious” designation under the Lacey Act would make it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, buy or posses any of the nine constrictor snakes listed by the DOI. An outright ban on these nine constrictor snakes would result in significant economic damage to the pet industry, and those who support the sale and transportation of snakes and snake supplies. The Administration’s proposed policies are targeted at lawful pet owners and their private property and do NOTHING to address the stated concern over snakes currently existing in the wild in South Florida.

Get the Facts

* There are approximately 3,800 pet retail stores across the country that average $3.5-5.25 million in annual snake sales.

* The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the initial economic loss of snake supply revenue to be $3.6 to $10.7 million—that figure is believed to be greatly understated.

* In total, losses due to an “injurious” listing for Boa constrictors alone are expected to hit private pet dealers, pet supply stores and companies such Delta, FedEx, and UPS for a combined $1.6-$1.8 billion (Source: U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers.)

* The scope of this “injurious” listing is unprecedented and would cause severe economic pain for thousands of Americans by destroying livelihoods and possibly exacerbating the problem of constrictor snakes in South Florida as snake owners and breeders could then release their newly illegal snakes into the wild.

* Secretary Salazar based his decision on a 302-page report by the U.S. Geological Survey, which has been called into question by various scientists in a letter to the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. The scientists called the report a “gross overestimate of potential habitat for these snake species” and noted the Everglades were the “the only known breeding population” for pythons as FWS notes “large constrictors are likely to be limited to the warmest areas of the US.”

* Proponents of the Lacey Act designation argue that these snakes were released into the wild by their pet owners. However, Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida in 1992, completely destroyed a warehouse of exotic reptiles that potentially contained hundreds of Burmese pythons. This is thought to be a contributing factor to the prevalence of constrictor snakes in the Everglades.

* Sportsmen are good stewards of our public lands and their expertise and knowledge of the land should be used to help diminish the increasing snake population. Unfortunately, hunters are currently only allowed to hunt snakes with their hands or a machete, making the sport incredibly inefficient and unpopular.

And who said politics was boring?


There is an excellent National Geographic special called Python Wars that at least for me is currently available on Time Warner On Demand for those who want to watch it (for me it's under HD On Demand, which is all free). They followed park scientists and others trying to study the pythons in an attempt to understand them and find potential weaknesses. Very distressing situation (these snakes have been found to eat just about anything) and the native wildlife is essentially defenseless against them.

More distressing is the African python, which is apparently even nastier and could eat even larger prey. It's also been found in the Everglades but so far has not spread.

Highly recommend the program!

What do you expect from a bunch of snake oil salesmen? (Sorry, I can't resist.)

Those people who sell snakes can raise them instead of importing them, and they can still make their money. There should be more creatures that should not be allowed here than just snakes.

Why can't Republicans support even the smallest victory for our natural environment? This is an easy one and they blew it. Could also be an example of the deep partisan divide infecting Congress these days. Regardless, this is another example of why I call myself a Jeffersonian Democrat.

I couldn't care less about a business's cash flow.
This is about protecting Our Everglades National Park.

Wow. I generally agree w/a lot the Repubs say but I'm so far off on this one its astounding. Maybe that's because I live in So. Fla. and have seen the devastation first hand. These snakes need to be banned everywhere except zoos and other places where professionals handle them.

And for the record, the regulations of the currently ongoing python hunt that is open to the public allow hunters to use firearms with the exception of centerfire rifles. It is only the state-licensed trappers who can capture/kill pythons at any time who cannot use firearms. So the facts the Repubs are touting on this are partially incorrect.

The bigger problem w/the current hunt is that it restricts where the hunters can go to certain state managed lands around Lake Okeechobee. Everglades Natl. Park is not open to hunters, the only people who can capture snakes there are the state licensed trappers. However, most of the officials who know anything agree that the largest concentration of snakes is in ENP. So why not open the park to snake hunters for a month and see what they find? It can't hurt at this point . . .

Ecosystems continue to evolve as new species are added. This has been true of the ENP since the beginning. It would be true even if the Burmese Python was never introduced. It's rediculous to call this evolution "devastation".

This proposed legislation would not only ban importation but also the INTERSTATE trade and transportation. So even if snake breeders raise captive bred snakes they would not be able to "make their money". It's also not targeting just the Burmese Python but 8 other constrictor species as well.

To those who "do not care about a businesses cash flow". Behind these SMALL businesses are people. Human beings trying to provide for their families and make the ends meet by doing what they love to do.

They won't be able to control the snake infestation until they can stop the new ones coming in. The Secretary should ignore these fools. Come on, 1.6-1.8 billion US is not "small business". It's BIG business, and it shows just how much the GOP cares about safeguarding our country's natural resources. What's astounding to me is the contemptible level of greed and ignorance which, if you'll forgive me, rates no higher than a snake's belt buckle. It's all about what they can exploit. "Ecosystems continue to evolve as new species are added." It wasn't Hurricane Andrew or any other natural process that brought these snakes into our country. The snake sellers can just learn to love selling something else.

These snakes aren't going to respect borders and fences, you know - and they WILL get around. They are aggressive and not picky about what they eat, so long as it's alive and they can fit it in their mouth. Wonder what these same Republicans will say when people's pets and children start to go missing.

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