Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 9:02 a.m.
Earlier this year, our cowboy-hat-wearing secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, hosted a news conference in the Everglades to announce a federal ban on importing four species of snakes, including the much-loathed Burmese python.
Now, a new proposal from Reps. Tom Rooney and Ted Deutch looks to expand the number of species banned from four to nine. Among the species targeted in the new proposal are the boa constrictor and the reticulated python.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill earlier this week, but not everyone is pleased about the potential of expanding the ban.
"Even with the most convoluted sense of reasoning, there's no reason those animals should be added to the list," says Andrew Wyatt, CEO of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers. "We're talking about an economic impact well in excess of $100 million a year."
The Association of Reptile Keepers, which Wyatt says has 40,000 members, supplies snakes to zoos, museums, pet shops, and research facilities.
"Mr. Rooney wants to trump the Obama administration and own this issue in Florida," Wyatt says. "But it has not one ounce of conservation value to the Everglades."
When Salazar announced the ban in January, Rooney was quick to call
it a "half-measure" that will not "do nearly enough to protect the Everglades." He also said that all nine species included in his ban "need to be eradicated."
Wyatt has particular beef with using federal bans to address a problem that mostly affects just a few counties in the southern tip of Florida.
"With all the hype, you'd think Burmese pythons are fixing to take over the southern third of the U.S.," Wyatt says. "What they're trying to do is put a federal Band-Aid on a very localized problem in South Florida."
In a recent news release
, Rooney backs up his argument for the ban by citing a recent study suggesting that snakes, Burmese pythons in particular, have led to drastic declines in Everglades.
However, as we recently reported
, that study has started to encounter opposition from scientists, including one expert who said the findings should have "never made it to the light of day."