It is actually frighteningly easy to import animals into the United States. Animals that are not declared “injurious” under the Lacey Act may be imported. The Lacey Act was enacted 117 years ago and is administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It is is excruciatingly slow. The average time for a new listing is about four years and only about 40 animal groups have been listed. Burmese pythons—the animal that is decreasing native wildlife populations in the Everglades and is a threat to human safety—were only listed in 2012, six years after being proposed for listing. They system is vastly too slow to protect the nation.
CISP’s invasive animal work aims at implementing this law more forcefully, or better yet, replacing this outmoded law with one that assesses potential risks before animals are imported. We have testified to Congress three times and are the recognized national leaders on this issue. We continue to push stronger legislation, with a new emphasis on also preventing wildlife disease. Better prevention will save taxpayers hundreds of millions a year in damages and control costs. For example, in 2010 and 2011, the federal budget allocated approximately $120 million to control the Asian carp. Tens of millions more dollars are spent to control invaders such as nutria and two python species established in Florida. The injurious species listing program has only three full-time staff and a budget of only $500,000. Putting funds towards prevention will save money in control costs later. CISP is working to improve this through more Congressional funding.
42 "High Risk" Species Petition: In December of 2016, CISP filed its revised petition with the Secretary of the Interior’s office entitled: Petition: To Amend 50 CFR §16.13 to List 42 High Risk Fish, Crayfish, and Mollusk Species as Injurious Species under the Lacey Act. CISP proposed a proactive approach to preventing introductions of invasive or “injurious” non-native animals under the Lacey Act. The nation already has scores of harmful invaders: starlings, red lionfish, Burmese pythons, Asian carps, quagga mussels, tegus, and on and on. We need to start doing multi-species listing proposals to change what has been an extremely slow regulatory process into one that has a pace that can actually protect our resources – and people. In this age of vast globalized trade in live fish and wildlife, a slow, reactive pace to regulation is plainly inadequate
The 42 species proposed for regulation are the highest risk species that were already identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service itself, using a careful, peer-reviewed screening model. The agency invested a significant amount of funds and staff time over the last 10 years to develop this model; the results have been posted on the agency's website, but there has been no follow-up regulation. None of the 42 "High Risk" species offer essential benefits that outweighs their potential harm to the United States. Formal notice of the CISP listing Petition needs to be posted in the Federal Register for public comment as soon as possible.
For a copy of the Petition, and to see the list of 42 species, go to the “Contact Us” button on the CISP webpage. The petition had been filed 2 months earlier, in October of 2016, then was revised to delete one species, the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkia) pending further analysis.
In April 2017, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in United States Association of Reptile Keepers, Inc. et al. v. Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior and United States Fish and Wildlife Service, that the prohibition on moving injurious species within the United States applies only to animals moved between the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States and the 49 continental United States. The FWS lacks statutory authority to prohibit movement across State lines among the 49 continental States.
The long tail salamander (Eurycea longicauda) is native to North America and vulnerable to introduced amphibian diseases such as Bsal.
Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS
Imported animals can cause damage to the environment by preying on native wildlife, but they can also bring in novel diseases. A salamander disease from Asia vectored via the pet trade, Bsal, is killing salamanders in Holland and Belgium and threatens to decimate our native salamanders. The eastern United States are the global center of salamander diversity and all these species are at risk from Bsal. They must be protected for their own sake and because of the major role they play in forest ecosystems. CISP has prioritized the prevention of the salamander disease Bsal entering the United States because so many unique North American salamander species are at risk from it and salamanders are key components of many food webs and important to nutrient cycling. This threat is in addition to the chytrid fungus, Bd, that has decimated frogs; the deadly Whitenose Syndrome in bats; and West Nile Virus in birds. The import of such pathogens must stop. We are continuing to work toward that end in recognition that the regulation adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to control Bsal is inadequate to prevent the disease. It must be strengthened. We are working with several stakeholders to achieve that.