I felt obligated to reblog this as a reminder to the herp community that the Lacey Act is in fact actually EXTREMELY important, used regularly by law enforcement and if it were to go away… it would be VERY BAD for wildlife in the US (very good for poachers though, they’d be quite pleased).
I’m not going to address everything… but just mention a few important things about the act and clear up some misconceptions in the article:
1) Why are some species that aren’t commonly heard of by people listed and not others?:
Species are NOT considered for this list based on the public’s knowledge of that species. Species are considered when there is evidence to support that introduction into the United States COULD be detrimental, proof of current detriment within the US is NOT required, but certainly helps with the listing process. Specifically:
"The Service evaluates two sets of scientific data. First, the agency evaluates the factors that contribute to a species being considered injurious, including:
- the likelihood of release or escape;
- potential to survive, become established, and spread;
- impacts on wildlife resources and or ecosystems through hybridization and competition for food/habitats, habitat degradation/destruction, predation, and pathogen transfer;
- impact to threatened and endangered species and their habitats;
- impacts to human beings, forestry, horticulture, and agriculture; and
- wildlife or habitat damages that may occur from control measures
Second, the Service evaluates factors that reduce the likelihood of the invasive species causing harm, including the:
- ability to prevent escape and establishment;
- potential to eradicate or manage established populations;
- ability to rehabilitate disturbed ecosystems;
- ability to prevent or control the spread of pathogens or parasites; and
- any potential ecological benefits to introduction. “
Further, the mammal species provided as examples of the regulations COULD cause great ecological harm which is why they’re listed. If we waited for all species to establish and prove that they’re exceptionally injurious then it would be too late. Once established, invasive species can be near impossible to eradicate (as demonstrated by the Burmese pythons in Florida, Brown Tree Snakes in Guam). This list is all about trying to stay a step ahead of, or at least slow down the spread of invasive species in the US.
2) Why are some clearly problematic species not listed?
Many species deserve to be on the list, but simply aren’t. Lots of species aren’t listed because transport and possession by humans isn’t the primary reason why they’re such a big risk/problem. This is usually because there’s no/minimal interstate/international trade in live individuals, but other reasons can play a role such as:
- Wild Boar- Genetically considered the same species as the domestic hog. Adding this species to the list would also ban the movement of hogs, and products like bacon across state lines.
- House Mouse/Brown Rat- same problem as wild boar, domestic variants used for scientific purposes.
3) Why are species that can spread themselves on the landscape listed?
By its very definition an invasive species is able to spread itself on a landscape, or else it wouldn’t be considered invasive! So all invasive species meet that criteria, but why are some listed and others are left off? A species is listed if it meets the criteria presented above in #1, those words are taken directly from the USFWS (which as a side note is the proper acronym for the US Fish & Wildlife Service).
4) So what about the big snakes… why are they being listed/proposed for listing?
The big snakes being proposed for listing were evaluated based on the list of criteria presented in #1, and found to be a potential threat to the United States and its territories, hence the proposed listing. While I don’t know the exact specifics as to why these species were selected, here’s some likely reasons:
- Established invasive snakes (Boa constrictor (Aruba, elsewhere), Burmese python (Florida), Brown tree snake (Guam) near impossible to monitor/eradicate and shown to be absolutely devastating to native wildlife.
- Reported sightings of some of these species including gravid, healthy individuals
- Suitable habitat present for each species within the US/US territories
- High probability of release or escape
- Similarity between species in both ecology and appearance
- Lack of scientific research on some species (Python natalensis for example has only a handful of scientific publications; the Beni anaconda has even less)- in situations like this its safest to list a species if closely related species are high-risk
5) Is the Lacey Act effective?
At its core, the Lacey Act allows for federal prosecution of poachers and other wildlife law violators who break a state, federal, tribal or international law but then flee to another state to avoid prosecution.
The Lacey Act isn’t just the injurious species list. Even if it was, the injurious species list is important. Arguably one of the reasons why we don’t see many of these listed species roaming around the ecosystem is because they’re on the list… the ones that are present were simply listed too late.
6) Where can I read more about this?
Be aware that using USARK as the only source of information is going to be problematic- its going to be biased towards never listing a herp as an injurious species. For more information about the Act, refer to the USFWS and the Act itself. This information can be found here:
Recent examples of the Lacey Act in action (along with other wildlife laws):