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My e-mail to Frank Lautenberg

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  • My e-mail to Frank Lautenberg

    I forgot to post this yesterday. My e-mail to my state Senator:

    Mr. Lautenberg -

    I just wanted to contact you regarding the matter of S373 (The Python Ban). This is being touted as an environmental issue, and the report submitted by the USGS, and backed by the HSUS, is lacking in clinical scientific study. It is based on unresearched theories, and is born of media driven paranoia and prejudice when it comes to large constrictor snakes. I fully support the preservation of the Everglades and its diverse ecosystems, but the proposed ban on all species of Python will not offer any aid to the problems being faced in southern Florida, nor will it stop any effects the currently entrenched non-native species are having on the presence of native species. What it will do is cause the loss of thousands of jobs within the pet industry and those involved in the captive breeding programs of these reptiles.

    I strongly urge you to consider opposing this bill - especially in light of the fact that numerous individuals in the scientific community have gone on record as stating that the USGS' report is not scientifically sound. Actually, one does not even need to be in a scientific field to see that the report is incorrect in it's assumptions. Many of the species the bill seeks to ban have been in the United States in the pet industry for decades. Had these reptiles been able to thrive, and overtake, the regions and ecosystems the USGS is suggesting then we would have seen this taking place long ago. We also would have seen the large constrictors in the Everglades migrating to other areas by now... yet they are still remaining within a very specific locality, and have shown now "migration" outside of southern Florida.

    This proposed bill is not the environmental issue it is being claimed to be. Any attempt to offer aid to the the Everglades should be focused on the Everglades and the study of the animals that are considered to be a problem, and how their presence can be addressed. Instead the USGS is using the Everglades as a spring board to seek other actions but not focusing on the issues at hand.

    I urge you to read the following materials regarding this issue. They illustrate how the USGS' report is lacking in scientific study.

    PLoS ONE: Claims of Potential Expansion throughout the U.S. by Invasive Python Species Are Contradicted by Ecological Niche Models

    And there was this letter that was recently submitted to Congress by USARK:

    "24 November 2009
    U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary
    The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism & Homeland Security
    2138 Rayburn House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515
    Dear Chairman Bobby Scott and Ranking Member Louie Gohmert:
    We write in regard to the recent Congressional hearing on HR 2811. As scientists who have worked with reptiles including those cited in HR2811, we express our reservations regarding the document recently released by USGS as an “Open-Report”, titled Giant Constrictors: Biological and Management Profiles and an Establishment Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of Pythons, Anacondas, and the Boa Constrictor.
    Simply put, this report is not a bona-fide “scientific” paper that has gone through external peer review. Part of this report is fact-driven, described by the authors as “traditional library scholarship.” By the authors’ admissions, there are surprisingly little data available regarding the natural history of these species. In their attempt to compile as much information as possible, the authors draw from a wide variety of references, ranging from articles published in peer-reviewed professional journals to far less authoritative hobbyist sources, including popular magazines, the internet, pet industry publications, and even various media sources. While such an approach is inclusive, it tends to include information that is unsubstantiated and, in some cases, contradicts sound existing data.
    As scientists whose careers are focused around publishing in peer-reviewed journals and providing expert reviews of papers submitted to these journals, we feel it is a misrepresentation to call the USGS document “scientific”. In fact, much of this report is based on an unproven risk assessment model that produces results that contradict the findings presented in a recently published scientific paper that used a more complex and superior model (see: Pyron R.A., F.T. Burbrink, and T.J. Guiher. 2008. Claims of Potential Expansion throughout the U.S. by Invasive Python Species Are Contradicted by Ecological Niche Models, PLoS One 3: e2931. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002931). Unfortunately, the authors of the USGS document limit their reference to this scientific work to an unsubstantiated criticism. To the contrary, this alternate model is validated by its relatively accurate prediction of the natural distribution of the species in question (something the USGS model does not even attempt). Furthermore, despite its conclusion of a limited potential distribution of Burmese pythons in the United States, the model presented by Pyron et al. accurately predicts the presence of Burmese pythons in the Everglades.
    The USGS model likely provides a gross overestimate of potential habitat for these snake species. People throughout the United States keep pythons as pets, yet the only known breeding populations in the United States are in the Everglades. Such a wide distribution of potential sources of invasion, but only a localized invasive event, suggests that factors beyond those used in the USGS model are critical to limiting the suitability of habitat for pythons. The authors even state that climate is only one factor of several that affect the distribution of an animal, yet they develop a model that only uses overly simplistic climatic data (e.g., the climatic data did not take seasonality into consideration).
    We are further concerned by the pervasive bias throughout this report. There is an obvious effort to emphasize the size, fecundity and dangers posed by each species; no chance is missed to speculate on negative scenarios. The report appears designed to promote the tenuous concept that invasive giant snakes are a national threat. However, throughout the report there is a preponderance of grammatical qualifiers that serve to weaken many, if not most, statements that are made.
    We fully recognize the serious concerns associated with the presence of persistent python populations in southern Florida. As top predators, these animals can and will have a dramatic impact on the community of wildlife that lives in the Everglades. Inaccurately extending this threat to a much large geographic area is not only inappropriate, but likely takes needed focus away from the real problem in the Everglades.
    In conclusion, as written, this document is not suitable as the basis for legislative or regulatory policies, as its content is not based on best science practices, it has not gone through external peer-review, and it diverts attention away from the primary concern. We encourage the USFWS and USGS to submit this document to an independent body for proper and legitimate peer review. Additionally, we encourage the Committee to review this document, not as an authoritative scientific publication, but rather as a report currently drafted to support a predetermined policy.
    Elliott Jacobson, MS, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACZM
    Professor of Zoological Medicine
    University of Florida
    Dale DeNardo, DVM, PhD
    Associate Professor School of Life Sciences
    Arizona State University
    Paul M. Gibbons, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP (Avian)
    President-Elect, Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians
    Interim Regent, Reptiles & Amphibians, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners
    Director, Exotic Species Specialty Service
    Animal Emergency Center and Specialty Services
    Chris Griffin, DVM, Dipl. ABVP (Avian)
    President, Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians
    Owner and Medical Director
    Griffin Avian and Exotic Veterinary Hospital
    Brady Barr, PhD
    Resident Herpetologist
    National Geographic Society
    Endangered Species Coalition of the Council of State Governments
    Crocodilian Specialist Group
    Warren Booth, PhD
    Invasive Species Biologist
    Research Associate
    North Carolina State University
    Director of Science
    United States Association of Reptile Keepers
    Ray E. Ashton, Jr.
    Ashton Biodiversity Research & Preservation Institute
    Robert Herrington, PhD
    Professor of Biology
    Georgia Southwestern State University
    Douglas L. Hotle
    Curator of Herpetology/Conservation/Research
    Natural Toxins Research Center
    Texas A&M University
    Francis L. Rose (Retired) , B.S., M.S. (Zoology), PhD (Zoology)
    Professor Emeritus
    Texas State University
    Edward J. Wozniak DVM, PhD
    Regional Veterinarian
    Zoonosis Control Division
    Texas Department of State Health Services"

    Thank you -
    Michael Lynch
    4-H Herpetology Club Leader, Morris Co. New Jersey

  • #2
    Re: My e-mail to Frank Lautenberg

    Another well written great letter. If only these letters would impact
    legislator and create open minded consideration.

    Lar M
    Boas By Klevitz