USGS Denies Due Process to Reptile Industry

Source: PR Newswire

Apr. 19, 2011

WILMINGTON, N.C., April 19, 2011 /PR Newswire/ -- On April 15th, the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) received a response from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to a long standing appeal and Request for Correction under the Information Quality Act (IQA). In rejecting USARK's contention that the USGS failed to maintain a high standard of quality for their work as required by IQA, the USGS stated, 'This document was not designated by the USGS as a highly influential scientific document,' and therefore subject to IQA standards. USARK rejects this statement as self serving and believes the document to be 'highly influential' based on the exact criteria laid out by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and, therefore, subject to the IQA standards.


The USGS report serves as the sole document being used to justify a federal rule making by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to add nine constrictor snakes to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. If enacted, the rule would prohibit interstate trade, imports and most exports of the listed species, thereby destroying thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in trade, putting over a million reptile breeders, collectors and pet owners in jeopardy of felony prosecution. USARK considers this response irresponsible and in direct conflict with guidelines set by forth the OMB.


In addition to the potentially devastating economic impact of the proposed rule, the report itself is highly controversial as to the science. The data set on which the conclusions of the 2009 Constrictor Report are based has been demonstrated to be so mischaracterized as to suggest either incompetence or an intentional attempt at deception. Michael Cota, researcher at the Thailand National Natural History Museum, stated in his public comment to FWS, with specific reference to the USGS climate data set, 'With a 60% error rate for just one country (Thailand), how many imaginary data sets were used for these reports?' The Constrictor Report is NOT a peer-reviewed scientific document. It is an internal report authored by strongly biased USGS biologists. In fact, 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 U.S. Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee that this report was 'not scientific,' and 'not suitable as the basis for regulatory of legislative policy decisions.'


In an ironic attempt to divert attention from his Department's dismal public image and failure to bring change, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar gave the 'Partners in Conservation Award' to the Giant Constrictor Risk Assessment Partnership for their work regarding constrictor snakes.


The Partners in Conservation award is the highest award granted by the Department of Interior (DOI). The Giant Constrictor Risk Assessment Partnership (ridiculously referred to as Giant CRAP or GCRAP) comprises a small number of government biologists employed by FWS, the National Park Service (NPS), and USGS. USARK CEO Andrew Wyatt commented, 'How can the Secretary honor a group of government biologists who give their committee the acronym of Giant CRAP? It may be a joke to them, but it is certainly not a joke to the millions of pet owners and reptile keepers whose livelihoods are at stake.'


This prestigious award was given to GCRAP even though the work they have done has been questioned from its inception and continues to be mired in controversy. USARK feels the Award given by Secretary Salazar rewards GCRAP for its concerted effort to ruin decades of successful business, conservation efforts, and education initiatives by private citizens.


'The hubris and unbridled contempt shown by USGS and FWS for the reptile industry is disheartening and without basis,' said Wyatt. 'It took two appeals before Gordon Rodda saw fit to finally retract his statement that 'southern Florida has an acknowledged reputation for unsavory characters, both reptilian and otherwise.'' Wyatt added, 'We have created a clear public record of the problems with the science and economics, but USGS and FWS seem determined to ignore the facts in favor of their own preference.' Wyatt went on to say, 'Art Roybal from FWS and Gordon Rodda and Robert Reed from USGS have made a mockery of due process. I hope they will be held accountable.'


SOURCE United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK)