Posted: Jan. 17, 2012, 12:15 p.m. EST
EDITORS' NOTE: The final rule was published in the Jan. 23, 2012, Federal Register, and becomes effective on March 23, 2012.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will ban the importation and interstate transportation of four constrictor snakes—the Burmese python, the northern and southern African pythons and the yellow anaconda—in about two months, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today.
The agency plans to publish a final rule in the Federal Register within the next few days. The final rule, in which the agency will list the species as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act, will go into effect 60 days after its publication. The Lacey Act allows the prohibition of trade in species deemed injurious to people, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, wildlife or wildlife resources in the United States.
The rule prohibits the interstate transport and importation of live individuals, gametes, viable eggs, or hybrids of the four species into the United States. Sales of the snakes within a state would not be affected provided no effort was made to take the snake across the border.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register in March 2010. The agency said the final rule considered public comment (about 56,500 comments received) and economic and environmental analysis.
The agency predicted that the prohibition would decrease economic output by between $10.7 million and $21.8 million annually in direct, indirect and induced effects, specifically, the loss of trade in those species and the loss of spending by people that lose their jobs as a result of the ban.
By contrast, the agency said government agencies (federal, state and local) have spent about $6 million since 2005 in combating populations of these snakes in the wild. The government said those costs would likely rise if populations spread.
The agency said that most people who already own any of the four species will be allowed to keep them if allowed by state law. However, they would not be able to take, send or sell them across state lines. Businesses would be able to export these species from designated ports within their state as long as they had a permit from the Fish & Wildlife Service, the agency said.
The ban is part of an effort to prevent the spread of the non-native snakes in the wild in the United States, particularly the Everglades, the government said.
“Thanks to the work of our scientists, Senator Bill Nelson, and others, there is a large and growing understanding of the real and immediate threat that the Burmese python and other invasive snakes pose to the Everglades and other ecosystems in the United States,” Salazar said. “The Burmese python has already gained a foothold in the Florida Everglades, and we must do all we can to battle its spread and to prevent further human contributions of invasive snakes that cause economic and environmental damage.”
The agency continues to consider listing five other snakes—the reticulated python, boa constrictor, DeSchauensee’s anaconda,green anaconda and Beni anaconda—as injurious as well, according to Fish & Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe. The agency has not finished determining the status of those species yet and opted to ban the four immediately as it has determined they posed a “high” risk potential of establishing themselves in the wild and harming native wildlife.
“Burmese pythons have already caused substantial harm in Florida,” Ashe said. “By taking this action today, we will help prevent further harm from these large constrictor snakes to native wildlife, especially in habitats that can support constrictor snake populations across the southern United States and in U.S. territories.”<HOME>
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