The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has turned a blind eye to Science and fact, and is instead functioning as the heart and soul of environmental extremist and animal rights extremist groups. Even the “pretense” of honesty has been abandoned (as the FWS’ record over the past six years clearly demonstrate) and while the Department of Interior seeks to destroy a legitimate $1.4 Billion dollar per year Reptile industry.
The anti-science position of the Fish and Wildlife Service is ironic. During the George W. Bush administration, Dan Ashe of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, (hereafter referred to as the “Service”), fought for and won the battle to use legitimate science in order to promote and set policy for the Service. He served as the Science Advisor to the Director of the Service (originally), and is now the Director of the Service. The US Geological Service (USGS) would research and conduct the science for the Department of Interior. This was an important step in facilitating the non-political fact based policies that Ashe and others at the Service were fighting for. That was the argument. However, the USGS and the Service have allowed NO legitimate, scientific input. This despite the fact that the USGS “Science” is NOT peer reviewed nor is it subject to any scrutiny from the scientific community, whatsoever.
The Peer Review process is the scientific standard which every legitimate scientific paper (that is published in scientific journals) must go through to become accepted as reliable science. Not surprising however is fact that no such standard is utilized by the USGS, even though it is a necessary legal process used to determine the legitimacy of any proposed and intended) act: in this case, the ruination of a legitimate business which seeks to promote the establishment of populations of species otherwise destined for survival challenges or worse, extinction. In fact their “reports” are purportedly reviewed by anonymous “scientists” of the USGS choosing and follow NONE of the necessary Peer Review protocols to substantiate their claims. Contrarily, a scientific journal commissions real, legitimate scientists (of their choosing) to criticize and scrutinize submitted papers which seek to assure the scientific community of accuracy without bias of any kind. After all, the reputation of the Journal is at stake. Had Dan Ashe fought for legitimate science, the Department of Interior would make no decision affecting our environment or individual American citizens using anything but peer reviewed science.
Deliberately avoiding any scientific peer review gives the Department of Interior complete license to tailor their talking point to the ideological slant of the individuals involved without any accountability or oversight. This is dangerous; as they succeed in getting the right people in the right positions, they can influence the decisions made by the Service in an extremist direction and in either political direction. A legitimate peer review process and the admission and legitimate consideration of peer reviewed papers would prevent such abuse. That however, is not what Ashe argued for. Short of going to court (to prove victimization by the Service), there would be no way prove their Services’ accountability in the matter.
The most recent example of abuse by the Service may be a bit squeamish for some: e.g. Florida has a problem with feral Burmese Pythons in the Everglades, and the following list shows the Services’ push toward an extremist view which conveniently forgoes proper vetting, and avoids legitimate SCIENCE all together
- In 2006 The South Florida Water Management District petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requested the listing of the Burmese Python as “injurious” under the Federal Lacy Act. In January of 2008 the Service published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register asking for public comment on not just the Burmese Python as requested by Florida, but several species of Constrictors. This is the first example of the Service nudging the issue in the direction that their extremist friends wanted. Instead of simply following the request for the problem Burmese in Florida, the Service lumped in other species popular in the pet trade but incidentally NOT requested by Florida. The HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) among many other animal rights and environmental extremist organizations supported this overreach.
- In January 2009, HR669 was introduced in the House of Representatives proposing law that would make ALL non-native animals illegal in the United States. This means you could no longer go to your local pet shop and purchase a gold fish for your child. Sitting at the table advocating for the passage of this bill were a representative from the HSUS and Dan Ashe. Dan Ashe (Science Advisor to the Director of the Service) was right there, hand in hand with the animal rights extremists fighting to stop a multi-billion dollar industry, and (no surprise) was without a shred of science to back such a ban. Again: more proof that the “Service” invited (and wanted) influence from animal extremists
- July 29, 2009, HR2811 was introduced in the House of Representatives proposing a broad brush declaration that ALL Pythons be listed as injurious species and thus subject to regulation under the Federal Lacy Act. Once again, Dan Ashe the Science Advisor (who advocated that science be used to make the policy of the Service instead of ideology) was there to push the extremists agenda without a word of documented, legitimate peer reviewed science behind him. In fact a letter was presented by the United States Association of Reptile Keepers which was critical of the questionable report used by the Service: USGS “Open Report.” This letter was signed by ten leading world renowned Reptile research scientists saying, “Simply put, this report is not a bona-fide “scientific” paper that has gone through external peer review … As scientist 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.” ” The letter concludes, “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.” Click here to view the letter.
- In October of 2009, the USGS issued a inter-office report concluding that nine species of constrictors were a threat to the invasion of the southern half of the United States. USGS “Open Report.”
-The report mentions “Nine of the largest Constrictor snakes” including Boa Constrictors. However, several other Constrictors (that did not make their list) grow much larger than Boa Constrictors. In fact, Boas rarely reach ten feet in length. So, why add them? What was the science they used to determine if a species should be added, or passed over? The expertise of the USGS scientists regarding large constrictors is embarrassingly unsophisticated, and they didn’t even use the most common and widely use scientific protocols when considering a given species. Example: they included (in their list) two subspecies of Anaconda that are not known to exist anywhere, in any collection in the US, (Zoos, Museums or private collections). In their ineptitude, the Service missed the inclusion of at least four species that not only are in US collections, but that meet or surpass the size of Boa Constrictors. The Boelens Python, Morelia boeleni surpasses twelve feet. The Olive Python, Liasis olivaceus, adults grow over 13′ in length. The Papuan Python, Apodora papaunus reaches 17′ in length. The Amethystine Python, Morelia amethistina grows to an astounding 20 feet in length. How did they miss these four species? Sloppy research can be the only answer. The sloppy standard applies to the USGS report again and again as we will detail.
– This report was written from the offices of Gordon Rodda and Robert Reed of the USGS without one day of legitimate field work or in lab research. Legitimate research, done by numerous scientists would prove the folly of the USGS but was to be conveniently ignored by the Service. More on those papers later.
– The report cherry picks certain facts written by experts (whose literature is cited in their report) on these nine constrictors using data that is friendly to their end goal and excludes information that was not favorable to their extreme positions
– In regards to the Burmese Pythons in Florida, the weather data used was that of the Indian Python instead of the Burmese Python. The Indian Pythons range is many times larger than the problem Burmese Python and reaches into areas that show much lower average temperatures than the range of the problem Burmese Pythons. Since the Indian Python range data would better support their extremist position, they used it instead of the data for the Burmese Python. Remember, these are “scientists” who’s work was not peer reviewed or subject to any independent, scientific scrutiny.
– The weather model they use is strictly a consideration of temperature averages. This, despite the fact that in the Burmese Pythons natural range, the record low temperature has never dropped below 50 degrees. However in Tallahassee Florida the record-cold temperature is just 2 degrees. This is nearly 50 degrees colder than it ever gets in the Burmese Pythons range and 30 degrees below freezing. Far too cold for animals that depend on specific, predictable temperature highs and lows in order to survive. Yet Rodda/Reed concluded that Burmese Pythons are on their way there (Tallahasee) and perhaps far beyond. The most ridiculous examples are far to the North of Tallahassee, where Rodda/Reed, (the USGS scientists), claim the Burmese is going to spread, and that dip down to ten below zero and even colder. This is perhaps the most obvious example of the bias and the deliberate deception which is so transparent in the USGS’ “scientific” reports. Embarrassing.
– This report also discusses Boa Constrictor reproduction. Boas are one of the species added by the USGS which Florida DID NOT ask to be included. Why were they added you ask? They were added because extreme animals right groups demanded such and the USGS’ knee-jerk response is to bow to their wishes, that’s why. They seek to take as large of a bite out of the Reptile industry as possible. Rodda/Reed wrote this, “Snow and other (2007b) suggested that the invasive population at the Deering Estate at Cutler may be limited by climate, and that reproduction may be successful only during years with especially warm winters, such as occurred in 1996; they supported this idea by saying that the boas appear to be of northern South American stock and thus unlikely to be adapted to cooler temperatures.” They admit in their own report that the Boas living in a small park in South Florida, to which they have confined themselves and barely clung to life for 25 years, are clinging to their existence in the warmest and most friendly climate in the United States. The fact recurring fact that it gets 20 degrees colder in Tallahassee Florida is an unfortunate fact that Rodda/Reed simply ignored. They obviously would never survive North of there.
– The report fails to acknowledge the fact that Boa Constrictors inhabit Northern Mexico with records of Boas as close at 90 miles from the US border. Clearly there are environmental reasons that the Northernmost Boa Constrictors, adapted to the most extreme cool environment in the wild over a millennia, have not advanced north in the US. This is ignored as this does not play to their narrative that the US is in danger of a Boa invasion
- The Service mantra is that hobbyists released Burms into the Everglades. They say that is why the Constrictors must be regulated under the Lacy act. Timothy M. Collins, Barbie Freeman and Skip Snow proved the genetic origin of the Burmese Pythons in the Everglades in the FINAL REPORT GENETIC CHARACTERIZATION OF POPULATIONS OF THE NONINDIGENOUS BURMESE PYTHON IN EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, This is a report prepared for the South Florida Water Management District in 2008. These are the same people who requested that the Burmese Python be declared an injurious species. Yet the USGS and the Service ignore even those who are directly involved in the Florida problem in favor of the extremist ideology they subscribe to. The USGS and the Service know there is no genetic evidence that hobbyists caused any of this problem. The paper details the Burmese Pythons in the Everglades “display little genetic differentiation,” proving they likely originated from a small genetic pool not the wide range of genetically variable results you would find if those Burmese are the descendants of hobbyists (as argued by the government scientists) This too is ignored as it does not serve their agenda
- The Winter of 2009-2010 is an inconvenient one for the extremist as the winter experience in the South (and in particular in the Everglades) is devastating to the population of feral Burmese Pythons which are said to exist there. This weather inspires a number of scientific papers that look at the Python problem in the Everglades in light of this cold weather. Weather that occurs in south Florida every 30-40 years and temperatures that occur in North Florida nearly every year
- In March of 2010, the USFWS posted the proposed rule to add nine species of Constrictors to regulation under the Lacy Act. This, while three legitimate scientific papers (which called the USGS conclusions into question) were being written and peer reviewed. You see, the winter of 2009-2010 was devastating to the Burmese Pythons in the Everglades. These three papers document that fact. The weather at points North of the Everglades was precipitously more harsh and obvious to anyone interested in an honest look at this issue can see. In every study, every Burmese Python left outdoors died in the cold snap. This fact is never acknowledged by the Service or the “scientists” at the USGS.
- “USDA Python/Cold Study, Avery et al, 2010”
- “ENP Cold Python Study, Mazzotti et al, 2010”
- “SREL Cold Study, Dorcas et al, 2010
- H. Early in 2010 USARK filed a request for Correction under the Information Quality Act (IQA) with the USGS. Nearly a year after making this request, the USGS stated, “This document was not designed by the USGS as a highly influential scientific document.” This is laughable on its face, as that is what the legitimate scientist stated in their letter objecting to the document in question. Note; they do not deny the inaccuracy of the document, but instead simply state it was not “highly influential.” This despite the fact that it is the singular piece of evidence used by the Service to reach the conclusions that impact the thousands of Reptile keepers whose animals were about to be relegated to “injurious” status. The USGS says the document is not highly influential, while the USFWS uses it as the only influential document it will even consider. This shows the USFWS and the USGS arrogance and virtual immunity to accountability outside of the Federal court system
- I. None of this would deter the decision makers at the Service who had made up their minds long ago what they were going to do. You see, the Service does what it wants to do or is told to do (without any accountability) by the extremist animal rights lobby. They have refused every scientific peer reviewed paper in favor of their own, unscientific extremism
- J. January 17, 2012: The US Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a rule that bans the importation and interstate transportation of four nonnative Constrictors. This only occurred after a huge public demand of the HSUS*, the Human Society of the United States and others who demanded that the Obama administration approve the USFWS nine Constrictor rule. In the end, only the Burmese Python, two species of African Rock Python and the Yellow Anaconda. The “rule” originally included nine species of Constrictors when it was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House for approval or rejection. The United States Association of Reptile Keepers had to commission their own Economic Impact Study after being targeted by the Service because the Service failed to do so itself. Though it is required by law. It is believed that the OMB did not approve of the full list of nine constrictors due to the economic impact limiting the other five would have upon the US economy. Though that is not entirely clear. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, speaking at a news conference in the Everglades, after making the formal public announcement, said the decision dealt with the species that were “the most immediate threats while not suffocating commerce by over-regulation.” This single admission that this is over-regulation, is the stand alone instance where it looks as if anyone at the Department of Interior may have actually given way and not done entirely what the animal rights groups demanded
As recently as January 20, 2012, the Service has written in Questions and Answers Listing of Four Non-native Snake Species as Injurious Under the Lacey Act the following, “To make this listing determination, the Service has applied the best available information. Most recently, large constrictor snakes have been documented as surviving the record cold spell in South Florida in early 2010.” The fact is a huge number died in weather that happens in the Everglades ever few decades in the US. The weather at points North of the Southernmost tip of Florida is considerably more harsh. However, this is again unfavorable to the conclusions the Service has come to without regard for any real data or any of the peer reviewed science. To the bitter end they stick exclusively with the report written by Rodda/Reed. Why shouldn’t they? They apparently know they have no accountability to anyone as their actions have proven every step along the way.
* The HSUS is a $100 Million dollar per year lobbying front that pretends to protect and care for animals in shelters when in reality it spends less than 1% of its budget helping animals in shelters. The rest is spent on lavish salaries, supporting like inclined Politicians, and lobbying for animal extremist positions.