The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on March 23rd, 2010. Last week the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife held a joint oversight hearing on "How To Manage Large Constrictor Snakes And Other Invasive Species." The subcommittees received testimony on efforts to monitor and control Burmese pythons and other invasive species in Everglades National Park. The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) provided the leadership and expert testimony that the Reptile Nation has come to expect. In attendance were USARK Senior Political Advisors Frank Vitello and Todd Willens. USARK Science Adviser Shawn Heflick provided expert testimony.
Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) made opening remarks regarding the risks to Everglades National Park posed by invasive species. In attendance were Ranking Member Henry Brown (R-S.C.), Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Congresswoman Grace Nepolitano (D-Calif.).
Ranking Member Henry Brown made a lengthy statement assailing the notion that listing large constrictors on the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act would have any positive impact on the Everglades. "How is putting thousands of Americans out of work and destroying thousands of small businesses going to eradicate Burmese pythons in South Florida?," Brown asked.
Congressman Bishop commented that it was clear pythons were an invasive issue limited to south Florida and would never be a problem in his home state of Utah.
Dr. Frank Mazzotti from the University of Florida testified that 9 out 10 of the radio telemetered Burmese pythons being tracked by the National Park Service in the Everglades National Park succumbed to the recent cold snap and died as a result.
Scott Hardin of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission testified that he believed at least 50 percent or more of the pythons in south Florida died in the cold snap.
Shawn Heflick, a conservation biologist and science adviser to USARK, said his cold-weather toll is estimated at 70 to 80 percent and proved that federal risk assessments suggesting the snake could spread to other states were overblown. "This population of pythons cannot expand outside of Florida,'' he said. "This is a Florida problem, not a federal problem.''
Both Hardin and Mazzotti agreed that this was an issue limited to south Florida and the Lacey Act was not an effective tool to control invasive species. They both urged for a pragmatic and comprehensive approach that was inclusive of the reptile industry.
Click here to read the full testimony of all witnesses (click individual names).
USARK would like to thank the leadership and measured approach of Chairman Grijalva in conducting the hearing. We would also like to thank Ranking Members Brown and Bishop for their astute comments and pointed questions revealing the true scope of the issues. Special thanks to Scott Hardin and Frank Mazzotti for bringing real perspective to what has been an over-sensationalized regional problem. And a very special thanks to Shawn Heflick for his expertise and devotion to the truth on behalf of the Reptile Nation!
There Is Strength in Numbers ... Protect Your Rights! We can win this fight with truth and integrity!
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