Tag Archives: Senate EPW

RED ALERT: Catx Deadline July 31st at Midnight!

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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 The HNR asked that the CatX be completely withdrawn.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***

Mr. Wyatt Goes to Washington

Left to right, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Cisco Systems CEO, John Chambers, and Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt.
Left to right, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Cisco Systems CEO, John Chambers, and Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt.

On March 13th and 14th, Herp Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt attended meetings with top law makers in Washington, DC. Recent developments in the federal legislative and regulatory environment demand an immediate and proactive approach to issues of vital importance to the future of herpetoculture.

The agenda included meetings with Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senator Bill Nelson’s Chief of Staff, Pete Mitchell, Senator Marco Rubio’s staff, Chairman Darrel Issa’s House Oversight Committee staff, Ranking Member David Vitter’s Senate EPW staff, Chairman Doc Hastings’ House Natural Resources Committee Staff Director Harry Burroughs, and others.

The two most pressing issues for herpetoculture at this time are:

  1. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is attempting to pressure the Obama Administration into finalizing the ‘Constrictor Rule.’  They seek to add the five species that were left off last January when US Fish & Wildlife Service partially enacted a final rule, but continued to consider for listing Boa constrictor, reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act; and
  2. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will sponsor a broad invasive species bill entitled the “Invasive Wildlife Protection Act” in the Senate for the 113th Congress.  Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) will introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives. These bills seek to add hundreds of non-native species to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act; including many reptiles and amphibians. (This is a re-write of HR 669 from 2008)
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Senator Bill Nelson’s Chief of Staff, Pete Mitchell, and Andrew Wyatt.

Senator Nelson’s Chief of Staff confirmed that it is his intention that the Invasive Wildlife Protection Act will indeed move forward in this session. He also promised that the Herp Alliance will be a part of the discussion and debate. We acknowleged that there are likely to be considerable differences in position on this issue, but herp Alliance felt it important to reach out and engage early in the process.

Several proactive ideas and strategies came forward in both Senate and House meetings of how the Herp Alliance, together with the help of our friends and allies, may be able to move powerfully to protect the future of herpetoculture regarding the partial rule and the new invasive species bills. The Herp Alliance is committed to staying at the forefront of these issues to protect our interests. We have a plan and we will continue to stay ahead of the game.

“We have spent 5 years taking control of the narrative on invasive species. We have clearly demonstrated that the science and economics support our case. Now the HSUS is in a position of attempting to rebut our talking points. We are taking dynamic action to stay ahead of that curve.”
        ~ Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt

Special thanks to Herp Alliance’s Washington DC consultant, Frank Vitello, of Vitello Consulting, for his help and expertise.

Federal Exotic Animal Ban to be Introduced Soon: The Return of HR669

Through our very reliable federal sources, the US Herpetoculture Alliance has learned that Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is likely to introduce his own version of the ‘Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act’ (HR 669 from 111th Congress) in this session.

Senator Bill Nelson showing off python skin at Senate EPW in 2009.
Senator Bill Nelson showing off python skin at Senate EPW in 2009.

Last year, in the 112th Congress, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced her own version of this bill. It was known as HR 5864, the ‘Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act’. Herp Alliance’s federal sources inform us that she plans to reintroduce this bill as a companion to Senator Nelson’s bill. Either or both of these proposals spell bad news for the herpetoculture community.

According to our sources, rewrites of these bills that should be introduced in the near future will and would amend the already overused and abused Lacey Act, 63208ab5-08b1-45a9-b6c8-7dc026a87be0fullexpediting the process by which animals may be added to the ‘Injuriuos Wildlife’ list. The approach seeks to create a list of ‘accepted’ species or ‘white list.’  White listed animals would be considered an acceptable risk level in terms of the likelihood of becoming alien invaders. By default, everything else would fall to the ‘unaccepted’ or ‘black list.’  Black listed species would be added to the ‘Injurious Wildlife’ list of the Lacey Act, prohibiting all import and interstate transport. Domesticated livestock and pets would be exempt.

Because of his high profile, and the stance he maintained on Burmese pythons, it is likely that Senator Nelson will lead the way on this issue and his bill would likely be assigned to the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee. Representative Slaughter’s bill would likely be assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee.

The Herp Alliance opposes any bill that seeks to further corrupt the Lacey Act by using a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach in adding animals to the ‘Injurious Wildlife’ list. If passed into law, this ‘white list/ black list’ system to designating what is a dangerous, invasive species will effectively end herpetoculture as we know it. It is likely that only a few ‘pet trade’ herpetofauna would make the white list. The rest could be black listed on to the Injurious list.

The herp community has defeated similar legislative struggles in the past. In

50,000 Letters Opposing HR669
50,000 Letters Opposing HR669

2008, together we launched a massive, grass roots letter writing campaign that generated nearly 50,000 letters in opposition to HR 669. Although we were successful in defeating HR 669, we knew that a rewrite was coming. The Herp Alliance believes that time is nearly upon us. Get ready to make your voice heard. We have the intelligence, tools and talent to prevail once again. The Herp Alliance will need the help of every single person that values herpetoculture. We need to activate our grass roots army once again against one of the biggest threats we have faced to date.

This will not only affect herpetoculture, but it will effect aquaculture. It will affect those who work with birds and mammals, and anything non-native to the United States. We need to work together with all of the interests that could be destroyed by this effort to further corrupt the Lacey Act.

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Stay tuned. As soon as the NEW bills are released we will make them available to the Herpetoculture Community, along with our analysis and plan of action.

US Fish & Wildlife Rule Making Authority: A Moral Dilemma

By Andrew Wyatt– CEO of the US Herpetoculture Alliance, Inc

        “Working for the Future of Herpetoculture”

The US Herpetoculture Alliance is calling for closer scrutiny for an already broken and out of control bureaucratic process in our federal government.

Senate EPWYesterday, Senator David Vitter Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, along with 23 additional Senators from both parties, sent a letter to the Obama administration questioning the administration on how proposed changes to economic impact analyses required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) could potentially hide the true impact of a species listing on jobs and private property rights across the nation.

In their letter to Dan Ashe, Director of US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), they expressed concerns about FWS attempting to change the rules required for reporting economic impact to bury reality by statistical manipulation in an attempt to hide the ball on the actual impact to business and agriculture. There has been a disturbing trend of late in the lengths to which FWS is willing to go to avoid accounting for the economic impact of their rule making process, especially in regards to the ESA and the Injurious Wildlife list under the Lacey Act. This trend has become more pronounced under the direction of Dan Ashe.

FWS has systematically avoided having to make economic justifications for its actions. In a calculated strategy of using rule making to avoid the legislative process, Ashe and the Obama Administration have pushed for an aggressive, yet critically incomplete, rule making process. With the support of radical environmental and animal rights advocates, Ashe has shortcutted the rule making process, seemingly ignoring the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), the Information Quality Act (IQA), and more to the point, ignoring the required economic impact analyses.

FWS Director Dan Ashe with Senator Bill Nelson and DOI Secretary Ken Salazar
FWS Director Dan Ashe with Senator Bill Nelson and DOI Secretary Ken Salazar

By-passing these important institutional checks and balances is having a dire negative impact on agriculture and small business. Billions of dollars of economic impact and tens of thousands of jobs are at stake while FWS tries to play a bureaucratic shell game with the American public. Special interests such as the Defenders of Wildlife pressure their friends at FWS to expedite rule makings as a moral imperative.

There is no doubt that Director Ashe and the NGO’s that support him feel that they hold the moral high ground on these issues. Protecting the nation’s wildlife and environment are indeed noble causes. However, corrupt means do not lead to a noble end. Circumventing legal and administrative processes designed to protect the integrity of rule making is not noble. Decisions cannot be arbitrarily made based on the ideals of a government agency or a powerful lobbying group seeking to bypass reasonable and established mandates for process, procedure and information quality standards in order to appease special interest groups.

us-district-court1On December 14, 2010, in a decision by US District Court Judge Oliver Wanger regarding an FWS rule to cut water off from the Central Valley of California to protect the Delta Smelt under the ESA, Judge Wanger ruled against FWS calling the sloppy science and fudged process, “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful”.

The rule cut off billions of gallons of water from human and agricultural use without scientific and procedural justification. It devastated the family owned agricultural businesses that relied on water to irrigate their crops in the Central Valley of California. What was left of these family farms in the wake of the FWS action was characterized as “dust bowl” like conditions. Government ideals cannot be permitted to take precedent over facts and science in order to expedite action that hurts jobs and the economy, all under the ruse of a moral imperative to protect endangered species and the rule making process.

In 2011 Congressman Darryl Issa held a hearing before his Government Oversight & Reform Committee to investigate a “broken government” rule making process. During this hearing he points out that, “it appears the FWS violated the administrative process in a number of ways” in regards to the Constrictor rule making, a proposed rule to add 9 constricting snakes to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. Under questioning of committee members, then Director of the White House Office of Management & Budget, Cass Sunstein, was asked about the trend in rule making where agencies were systematically avoiding economic impact analysis. Sunstein assured the committee that economic impact analysis would be done for all outstanding rules.

The Small Business Administration’s Office of the Advocate, also commenting on the sbaproposed Constrictor rule, informed the FWS that its Initial Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis (IRFA) was sorely lacking. Scientists from around the world questioned the highly controversial science used to substantiate the rule. When the science was further questioned under the Information Quality Act (IQA), agency officials replied that they weren’t held to the mandates for information quality required by IQA. On January 17, 2012 the Constrictor rule was partially enacted without an economic impact analysis having been done. Again FWS justifies rule making actions circumventing due process with the moral authority of expediting the protection of the environment.

The continued and relentless attempt by FWS to expedite their rule making process at the expense of jobs and the economy, while justifying their actions by claiming the moral high ground, is irresponsible and reckless.

The US Herpetoculture Alliance is urging better scrutiny and oversight for a bureaucratic process gone amok. If facts and science are going to be held hostage to ideology, then expect the Herp Alliance to be shining a bright light for a growing audience of concerned Americans to be able to clearly see where government actions appear to have no regard for jobs, private property or due process. Unbridled government has become one of the biggest obstacles to economic growth and jobs. It is time that agency staff be held to account for their actions.