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?