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 DOI Defies Obama Executive Order; Thousands of Jobs Threatened

DOI Defies Obama Executive Order; Thousands of Jobs Threatened

Washington, June 1, 2001-- In the face of recent sharp Congressional criticism over the Administration’s intrusive, burdensome – and often job killing – regulatory regime, President Obama responded in January with Executive Order 13563, requiring federal agency review of all rules. Executive Order 13563 was intended to protect jobs and the economy from excessive and over zealous regulation.

As a result of EO13563, Office of Management and Budget recently released a list of agency rules found to be obsolete or inefficient and therefore slated for elimination. OMB found that of the 66 proposed “major” rules imposed by the Administration in 2010, less than 30% were subject to cost benefit analysis.
In light of this report to Congress, the United State Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) calls on the Department of Interior (DOI) to withdraw the proposed rule to list nine constricting snakes on the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act.

In their attempts to enact the proposed rule, US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and US Geological Survey (USGS) ignored standard regulatory cost benefit analysis. The proposed rule would prohibit interstate transport of these animals, put approximately 1 million Americans in jeopardy of becoming felons, destroy thousands of jobs, and threaten the annual $1.4 billion national and international trade in high quality captive-bred reptiles. Never have animals with such a wide-spread, large, pre-existing captive population been proposed for any similar action. As such, USARK believes the proposed rule constitutes an improper application and extreme misuse of the Lacey Act, as well as blatant disregard of EO13563.

In addition to the absence of any cost-benefit analysis, there is only weak science and a controversial and error-ridden report to ostensibly support the proposed rule. A few employees of FWS, USGS and NPS comprise a DOI working group labeled the Giant Constrictor Risk Assessment Partnership (GCRAP). GCRAP is modeled after the Brown Treesnake Project, a program that has been largely unsuccessful despite receiving in excess of $100 million in government funding from 1985 to the present. For support of the proposed rule, GCRAP relies on a self-published, USGS intra-agency grey paper known as the “Constrictor Report.” This report is the only publication to support the proposed rule.

Criticized by scientists from around the world, the Constrictor Report (Reed and Rodda, 2009) is NOT a peer-reviewed scientific document. It is an internal report authored by strongly biased USGS biologists with demonstrable vested financial and professional interests in the outcome. After a review of the report, a panel of 11 independent experts from the National Geographic Society, University of Florida, Texas A&M, and others stated in a letter to the US Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee that this report was “not scientific”, and “not suitable as the basis for regulatory legislative policy decisions”.

USARK has filed FOIA requests to DOI agencies regarding the history and activities of GCRAP. Some requests have not yet been honored after a year of waiting; many have been inexplicably refused. In the past two years there have been numerous published reviews, critiques, and research that illustrate the inadequacies and fallacies of the Constrictor Report.
Even with the lack of transparency, sufficient documents are now in hand to support an argument that the proposed rule is based on the cooperation and collusion of GCRAP staff, with support of DOI administrators, to drive a political and financial agenda that is not supported by science, but rather is the result of staff preference and media sensationalism. The objectives are financially and philosophically satisfying to the DOI and to NGOs to which the DOI appears to be beholden.
If enacted, the proposed rule will have no significant affect on the solution of current or future problems posed by the constricting snakes—it is the wrong action.

;">As a result of the failure of the USFWS to conduct any cost-benefit analysis, the industry was forced to solicit an independent economic analysis. This report, titled “The Modern Reptile Industry”, prepared by Georgetown Economic Services, demonstrates the gross underestimate and lack of due diligence given by FWS to the economic impact of the proposed action. In addition, The American Zoological Association, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, USARK, and the Small Business Administration Office of the Advocate have all voiced their opposition to the rule via public comment. The final rule has been filed with the White House Office of Management and Budget and awaits a recommendation.

06/01/11  10:18am

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