Tag Archives: CatX

Advocacy, Accountability and Unity

OPINION

A lot has changed over the last year in the reptile community.  In December 2012, Andrew Wyatt resigned from USARK, the trade organization that he co-founded in 2008.  In January 2013, we co-f0unded the US Herpetoculture Alliance.  Although originally designed and organized to be an advocacy organization on behalf of herpetoculture, it has evolved into an education, conservation and information organization.  We do not engage directly in legislative issues.  But we analyze them and we will report on them.  We do not accept donations and everyone involved with Herp Alliance does so on a volunteer basis.  Herp Alliance has never paid a salary to an employee or an independent contractor.

Mike Canning's Facebook page as of February 2, 2014, describing himself as the former president and CEO.

Meanwhile, changes have been afoot at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) as well.  Although PIJAC has been conspicuously silent on the topic, Mike Canning has announced on his Facebook page that he is the former President and CEO of PIJAC.  Notably, former Vice President of Government Affairs & General Counsel, Mike Maddux has also disappeared from the PIJAC web site, as well as Bambi Nicole Osborne, Esq., Director of Government Affairs.  PIJAC has apparently done some quiet housecleaning.

People who are “Leaders in the Industry” have called for “unity.”  Any criticism of the way legislative issues have been handled (or not handled) that we have published has been criticized as “divisive” and not in the best interests of the industry.  I disagree.  HSUS is not going to back away from the persecution of reptile keepers because of unity in the community. Wayne Pacelle is not going to say, “Let them keep their large constrictors.  They are all such great friends.”

What this industry needs is competence, advocacy and accountability.

According to USARK, they have been on a banner run of fund raising in the few months that have passed since they announced the filing of their federal lawsuit challenging the Constrictor Rule of the Lacey Act.   USARK should be commended for retaining counsel and filing their lawsuit.  It is the only hope to reverse the damage done by the Constrictor Rule.

Rumors in the reptile community have circulated with some industry insiders claiming that there is a “99%” chance that USARK’s lawsuit will be victorious.  (These are odds that no lawyer could guarantee.)  And while wave after wave of information has leaked out of Washington DC, with Herp Alliance intercepting direct correspondence from HSUS to members of Congress, USARK continues to maintain that it is on top of the situation and is doing “much, much more.”  More of what, remains to be seen.

What we have not seen are advocacy letters from USARK to members of Congress pleading the case against listing five additional species to the Constrictor Rule.

The Categorical Exclusion Rule (or, CatX, as coined by Andrew Wyatt) just reopened for comment.  Although USARK has adopted the nomenclature of Cat Ex, it was Herp Alliance, last year, who secured this extension on the comment period.  Those of you who have not yet sent letters opposing CatX should do so immediately.

Bills that would dramatically affect herpetoculture and the right to privately keep reptiles are pending in Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina right now, with more bills in drafting departments of other states as I write.  The avalanche of legislation started by the animal rights industry that began a few years ago against reptile keeping continues to grow and to gain momentum.

On the state level, USARK has maintained a low profile.  Numerous supporters Wild Animals Are not petshave stated on Facebook that USARK will no longer engage at the state level.  Some announcements have been made. There have been a few action alerts encouraging stakeholders to write letters and emails.  Some bills have been overlooked until days after their introduction.  So far, USARK has not testified at a state committee hearing in this legislative session, either in person, or through written testimony.  Whether they will actually jump into the game or not remains to be seen.  It is possible that their hands are tied by funding a federal lawsuit which will certainly cost millions of dollars to fund if they intend to see it to its end.  Where will that money come from?  Gary Bagnall is not going to pony up seven figures to defend the right to keep large retics.  In fact, Zoo Med will be able to peddle more hot rocks and amateur equipment to corn snake keepers when the market is limited to the less controversial species.  The end game cannot be a full blown lawsuit.  The money is simply not there.

If  USARK abandons state level regulation, reptile bans at the state level will become a certainty.

The reptile community has donated tens of thousands of dollars to USARK.  If they are now exclusively a federal trade organization, they need to make that known.  When small business owners and private keepers are donating their hard earned dollars to the only trade organization that is left in existence to advocate for their rights, they have the right to know what is being done.  They have the right to be critical and they have the right to demand action.  They are the only recipient of your donations.  They are accountable to their constituents.  Competence, advocacy and accountability.  That is what they owe to herpetoculture and that is what should be demanded and delivered.

Unity in the face of inertia might make us all better friends so that we can comfort each other while our pets get criminalized.

RED ALERT: Catx Deadline July 31st at Midnight!

redalert_square
CatX Deadline July 31st at Midnight!

“The US Herpetoculure Alliance has just received word from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that we will receive the extension on “Public Comment” that we requested!” ~ Herp Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt 

The US Herpetoculture Alliance broke the news regarding the unprecedented and devastating impact the proposed “Categorical Exclusion” (CatX) could have on the herpetoculture community. There is no doubt that CatX is potentially the gravest threat herpetoculture has ever faced. It could remove all meaningful due process from adding animals to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act; allowing US Fish & Wildlife Service to arbitrarily add animals in mass. DON”T LET THIS HAPPEN!

Two weeks ago Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt, led a delegation to Washington, DC. Together with our counterparts at the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), we made our case to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

We received letters of support from the Committee Chairs of the US House Natural Resources Committee (HNR) and the Ranking Member of the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee (EPW). Additionally, Congressman Tom McClintock pledged his support in getting answers from the Secretary of Interior.

The Senate EPW asked for a 90 day extension on public comment. The HNR asked that the CatX be completely withdrawn. We will likely not get any answers from FWS in the next few days. Stay tuned for updates.take-action

PLEASE DO YOUR PART! The Herp Alliance has been working hard for you, now you must take action on the most important issue in the history of herpetoculture! SEND AN EMAIL TO FWS WITH YOUR PUBLIC COMMENT!

 

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Send an Email to FWS!

***Copy and paste the following template into an email and send it to FWS (making a comment in the comment section of our blog page is NOT making “public comment” to FWS). Be sure to include the subject line. Make public comment prior to July 31 deadline. Email FWS directly:

Email Address: prevent_invasives@fws.gov

Subject Line: Categorical Exclusion; FWS–HQ–FHC–2013–N044

As a member of the herpetoculture community I am against the proposed US Fish & Wildlife “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA mandates and I would like to support Senate EPW Ranking Member Vitter’s request for a 90 day extension on the public comment period.

This type of Categorical Exclusion is too far reaching and without precedent. It could facilitate the arbitrary addition of animals to the injurious wildlife list of the Lacey Act; potentially threatening the entire $1.4 billion annual commerce in reptiles and amphibians. Not only would it negate due process, but it would also negate legal recourse under NEPA. Categorical Exclusion could potentially become a tool to destroy my small business. Please consider the following points:

  1. The proposed categorical exclusion bypasses the requirement to consider economic and social impacts under NEPA.
  2. A categorical exclusion would not allow FWS to fully consider the beneficial impacts of declining to list a species under the Lacey Act.
  3. The proposed categorical exclusion is much broader than any of the other eight exclusions that FWS has approved under “permitting and regulatory functions”.
  4. The FWS’s “extraordinary circumstances” exception to a categorical exclusion is unhelpful because it does not apply to actions with high economic impacts.

Thank you.

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Click here to read Senator Vitter’s request for 90 day extension on CatX: 7.24.2013 CatX Comment Extension- Vitter

Click here to read HNR request to withdrawal CatX: PDF_Letter_to_Director_Dan_Ashe_on_Categorical_Exclusion

Click here to read Herp Alliance detailed CatX talking points: USHERP CatX Talking Points 2013

CatX Update: FWS Amphibian Ban!

The US Herpetoculture Alliance has just been made aware of a NEW wrinkle in the whirlwind US Fish & Wildlife (FWS) Categorical Exclusion (CatX) power grab! Sources inside Capitol Hill have just informed us that the CatX is a precursor to the wholesale listing of ALL amphibians to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. CatX, if enacted, would remove most of the due process afforded the rule making process under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). It would exclude FWS from doing due diligence in regards to scientific, economic and social impacts. In other words they could list ALL amphibians, in essence, just by declaring that they are injurious wildlife!

A petition to add ALL amphibians to the injurious list was fielded by FWS about two years ago. Subsequently, FWS published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register signaling their intention to propose a rule. The US Herpetoculture Alliance predicted this scenario three weeks ago when we broke the news of FWS’s intention to secure CatX. It was our opinion that CatX was a precursor to an attempt to list all amphibians on the injurious list without giving due process to the thousands of species that could be affected. Further, the Herp Alliance believes that this would be only the beginning of additional large scale listings of hundreds of species.

Senate EPW Ranking Member David Vitter
Senate EPW Ranking Member David Vitter

The good news is, the hard work that the US Herpetoculture Alliance has been engaged in all year is bearing fruit. The US House Natural Resources Committee has written a letter to Dan Ashe, Director of FWS, asking that the CatX be withdrawn by the agency. Simultaneously, the US Senate Environmental & Public Works Ranking member, Senator David Vitter, has requested a 90 day extension on “public comment” for CatX. The current deadline is July 31st.

Although the Herp Alliance and our allies have made a strong case for the extension of the “public comment” period, it is imperative that everyone make public comment prior to the July 31st deadline. If we get the extension we can all make more substantive supplemental comments, but time is of the essence on making public comment NOW!

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***Copy and paste the following template into an email and send it to FWS (making a comment in the comment section of our blog page is NOT making public comment). Be sure to include the subject line. Make public comment prior to July 31 deadline. Email FWS directly:

Email Address: prevent_invasives@fws.gov

Subject Line: Categorical Exclusion; FWS–HQ–FHC–2013–N044

As a member of the herpetoculture community I am against the proposed US Fish & Wildlife “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA mandates and I would like to support Senate EPW Ranking Member Vitter’s request for a 90 day extension on the public comment period.

This type of Categorical Exclusion is too far reaching and without precedent. It could facilitate the arbitrary addition of animals to the injurious wildlife list of the Lacey Act; potentially threatening the entire $1.4 billion annual commerce in reptiles and amphibians. Not only would it negate due process, but it would also negate legal recourse under NEPA. Categorical Exclusion could potentially become a tool to destroy my small business. Please consider the following points:

  1. The proposed categorical exclusion bypasses the requirement to consider economic and social impacts under NEPA.
  2. A categorical exclusion would not allow FWS to fully consider the beneficial impacts of declining to list a species under the Lacey Act.
  3. The proposed categorical exclusion is much broader than any of the other eight exclusions that FWS has approved under “permitting and regulatory functions”.
  4. The FWS’s “extraordinary circumstances” exception to a categorical exclusion is unhelpful because it does not apply to actions with high economic impacts.

Thank you.

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Read letter from Senator David Vitter requesting 90 day extension on CatX: 7.24.2013 CatX Comment Extension- Vitter

Read letter from House Natural Resources requesting withdrawal of CatX: PDF_Letter_to_Director_Dan_Ashe_on_Categorical_Exclusion

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***It has come to our attention that another organization is picking up our press releases, paraphrasing them, and then releasing them as their own. We are not overly concerned with this fact, and will continue to do the work and break the news. We prefer to be inclusive and stay above the fray on  issues that are so vitally important to herpetoculture. Emulation is the greatest form of flattery, and maybe it will provide greater awareness to the community in these troubled times. We welcome anyone who can help spread the word on CatX. We need unity in the herp community if we hope to prevail***

ACTION: CatX Threatens Entire Herp Nation!

US Fish & Wildlife Service Seeks CatX to Avoid Due Process For Injurious Listings
US Fish & Wildlife Service Seeks CatX to Avoid Due Process For Injurious Listings

(Some people are attempting to make public comment by commenting on the Herp Alliance Blog page. This will NOT work! Comments must be emailed directly to FWS at email address with sample letter)

The “Categorical Exclusion” (CatX) proposed earlier this month by US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is the single most dangerous threat ever fielded against herpetoculture! If enacted, CatX would pave the way for FWS to easily add species to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act by waving due process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires due process with science, economics and social impact considered prior to listing. CatX would eliminate NEPA mandated impact studies! Please read this entire alert and take the action outlined below!

Small Business Administration Meeting:

On July 17, 2013, the US Herpetoculture Alliance led a coalition of small business stakeholders and associations in a meeting with the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy (SBA) in Washington, DC. SBA was interested in collecting input from stakeholders regarding small business impacts of the proposed FWS CatX. This was the most important high level government meeting in several years; and likely the last prior to the CatX debate. Participants included representatives from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), Zoologic Association of America (ZAA), US Herpetoculture Alliance, The Frog Ranch, Gourmet Rodent and Vida Preciosa International (VPI). Our coalition was very well received, and we believe SBA will come out in support of small business. PIJAC/USARK were invited, but declined to attend.

Meetings at US House and Senate:

While in Washington, DC, Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt met with Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) from the US House Natural Resources Committee (HNR) and professional staff from the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee (EPW). FWS published notice of the CatX over the 4th of July holiday weekend without directly contacting impacted stakeholders. It has taken some time to analyze the CatX and formulate an informed opinion. The current deadline for public comment is July 31st. The Herp Alliance, AZA and ZAA have all requested that FWS extend the deadline for public comment on CatX by 60 days. HNR and EPW are supportive of our requests.

On behalf of the Herp Alliance, Congressman McClintock promised to ask new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell whether she was aware of the CatX and it’s implications.

Congressman Tom McClintock, Frog Ranch President Kim Thomas and US Herpetoculture Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt
Congressman Tom McClintock, Frog Ranch President Kim Thomas and US Herpetoculture Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt

“Madam Secretary, you may be aware that FWS recently proposed a rule for Categorical Exemption from NEPA mandates regarding “Injurious Wildlife Listings” under the Lacey Act. This Committee understands well the challenges in dealing with invasive species, however, I am concerned that exempting the FWS from addressing the Environmental, Economic and Social impacts of proposed additions to the list could be extremely damaging to small business; as several of the species FWS seems to be targeting are widely traded and would have a significant economic impact.  I’d like your commitment to look into this matter and get back to me before the service finalizes their rule making on this issue”. ~ Congressman Tom McClintock

The US Herpetoculture Alliance expects to have an answer from Secretary Jewell prior to the July 31st deadline for public comment.

Make Public Comment Today; Deadline July 31st!

It is of paramount importance that the herpetoculture community take CatX seriously and make comment prior to the deadline. Herp Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt expressed his concerns regarding CatX, “I am afraid that CatX has not registered with herpers… this is the greatest threat to ownership and trade of herps in the history of herpetoculture”! CatX is a much greater threat than the python ban. FWS seeks to completely exclude themselves from the scientific and economic considerations they currently must observe. If CatX is enacted FWS can arbitrarily add any animal to the Injurious Wildlife list without due process under NEPA. Further, legal recourse under NEPA would no longer be available. Wyatt added, “Make no mistake, this is the biggest threat we have ever faced. Nothing is safe under CatX. All reptiles and amphibians are at risk! Please make public comment”.

The Herp Alliance implores you to make public comment prior to the deadline of July 31, 2013. We have developed a template covering the most pertinent talking points along with an individual request for a 60 day extension on public comment. You can also use the talking points to write your own comment. Email us at president@usherp.org for more detailed talking points.

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***Copy and paste the following template into an email and send it to FWS. Be sure to include the subject line. Make public comment prior to July 31 deadline. Email directly to:

Email Address: prevent_invasives@fws.gov

Subject Line: Categorical Exclusion; FWS–HQ–FHC–2013–N044

I am against the proposed US Fish & Wildlife “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA mandates. This action could facilitate the arbitrary addition of animals to the injurious wildlife list of the Lacey Act; potentially threatening the entire $1.4 billion annual commerce in reptiles and amphibians. Not only would it negate due process, but it would also negate legal recourse under NEPA. Categorical Exclusion could potentially become a tool to destroy my small business. Please consider the following points:

  1. The proposed categorical exclusion bypasses the requirement to consider economic and social impacts under NEPA.
  2. A categorical exclusion would not allow FWS to fully consider the beneficial impacts of declining to list a species under the Lacey Act.
  3. The proposed categorical exclusion is much broader than any of the other eight exclusions that FWS has approved under “permitting and regulatory functions”.
  4. The FWS’s “extraordinary circumstances” exception to a categorical exclusion is unhelpful because it does not apply to actions with high economic impacts.

Additionally, the 30 day public comment period is far too short to make a fully informed comment. FWS published the proposed rule in the federal register over the holiday weekend. 30 days is not adequate to get full participation and quality comments. I am requesting that the public comment period be extended by 60 days.

Thank you.

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The US Herpetoculture Alliance remains committed to providing the most sophisticated and effective advocacy available for herpetoculture. Others cannot match our talent, experience or high level connections. We break the news first, provide in depth analysis on the issues and support the community with the most effective advocacy strategy and tools.

Click here for FWS notice in Federal Register on CatX: NEPA-FWS

Click here for US Herpetoculture Alliance analysis/ talking points on Cat X: USHERP CatX Talking Points 2013