H.R. 6362: Injurious Wildlife Revisited


Large Burmese python captured in the Florida Everglades

Washington, D.C.— On July 13th, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and U.S. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), announced through a press release, the bicameral reintroduction of the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act as H.R. 6362; formerly H.R. 669— the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act. The bill seeks to strictly regulate the import, possession and transport of potentially harmful non-native wildlife by giving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) greater authority to employ risk assessment protocols, screen for potentially invasive species, and designate “injurious wildlife.”

“injurious wildlife, cannot be imported into the United States or its territories, or be transported through interstate commerce”— Rep. Elise Stefanik

Legislative History
“Injurious Wildlife” is the issue I cut my political teeth on. Former CEO of the Defenders of Wildlife, Peter Jenkins, outlined early iterations of the bill in his 2007 Broken Screens report. Subsequently, H.R. 669 was introduced in 2009 by Del. Madeline Bordallo (D-Guam), and was soundly defeated in the House Natural Resources Committee when I coordinated a massive grass roots letter writing campaign on behalf of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK).

We delivered almost 50,000 hand written (NO on H.R. 669) letters to the House Natural Resources Committee— literally wheeling in stacks upon stacks of letters on carts to the committee hearing room. It wasn’t the only factor in the defeat of H.R. 669, but the dramatic impact of one of the largest letter writing campaigns in 30 years, put the nail in the coffin of a partisan special interest bill.

H.R. 669 was resurrected in 2013 as H.R. 996 by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). The name was changed to the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act, but the primary function— to create a “guilty until proven innocent” white list that expedited the arbitrary process to add species to the injurious wildlife list of the Lacey Act remained intact. However, the Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee had no appetite for partisan favors to special interest groups. As a result, Rep. Slaughter was never able to garner bi-partisan support from the Committee— where it languished until it’s death at the close of 113th Congressional session.

What would H.R. 6362 do if passed?
The main function of H.R. 6362 would give the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) authority to define and regulate “injurious wildlife taxon or taxa.” Further, it would establish a process of risk assessment and risk management for all non-native species “not in trade.” in the United States. H.R. 6362 would prohibit the import, possession and interstate transport of any species designated as injurious wildlife or not in trade. H.R. 6362 lets the Secretary of DOI arbitrarily make the calls to designate and regulate injurious wildlife unilaterally.

Negative Impact on Herpetoculture
The favorable ruling regarding the question of what constitutes interstate transport under the Lacey Act that USARK received from the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, would be completely negated (USARK v. Ryan Zinke 2017) by H.R. 6362. Possession and trade of all 9 constrictor species listed as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act would be prohibited; including Burmese pythons and reticulated pythons. Additionally, all of the 201 salamander species listed as injurious wildlife would be prohibited. Nothing currently on the injurious wildlife list could be possessed or traded if H.R. 6362 were to pass as written.


(1) IN GENERAL.—On the date of enactment of this Act, any wildlife designated as injurious by sec- tion 42(a) of title 18, United States Code, including any designation made under that section (as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act), shall be designated as an injurious wildlife taxon or taxa under this Act.

Impact on Zoos
There is no exemption for zoos in H.R. 6362. Any specimens that zoos keep in their collections that is considered injurious wildlife, or not in trade, would require a rigorous permit for import, possession or transport of these species. H.R. 6362 would cost zoos time, money and man power in applying for permits. Even without the injurious wildlife designation, I could see many of the species in zoo collections falling into the “not in trade” category— therefore requiring the same permitting as injurious wildlife. Zoos that operate on thin financial margins could be in jeopardy of insolvency should this measure pass.


(a) IN GENERAL.—The Director may issue to a qualified institution a permit that authorizes the import into the United States or transport between States of wildlife designated as an injurious wildlife taxon or taxa for scientific, zoological, medical research, or educational purposes if the Director finds that qualified institution properly demonstrates—

Solution for Constrictor Snakes listed as injurious?

When I outlined the strategy in 2012 for the USARK Board of Directors to file a simple administrative lawsuit against DOI to clarify the transportation clause, I never meant the favorable outcome to be a permanent solution to the issue of trade in large constrictors. The real question was whether large constrictors deserved the “injurious wildlife” designation.

Even if the government was overreaching their authority to enforce a prohibition on interstate transport of injurious wildlife, nobody really thinks it’s a good idea to transport injurious wildlife across state lines. An administrative lawsuit was always just a stopgap ploy to buy more time should constricting snakes get listed. That’s why I also laid all of the groundwork for a lawsuit on the “merits” to challenge the science used by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to justify the decision to list the large constrictors as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act in the first place.

The real question for herpetoculture is not whether injurious wildlife should be traded across state lines. But rather— Do 9 constrictor snakes belong on the injurious wildlife list?—Andrew Wyatt

A lawsuit on the merits would be much more involved and expensive to litigate than USARK v. Ryan Zinke. However, I already did most of the public record work and filed formal challenges of the science under the Information Quality Act as CEO of USARK. I established that the rule making fell into the “major” rule context, requiring the government do an exhaustive economic impact study and use only information held to a high quality standard. Further, I collected dissenting opinions from top science experts from around the world. If USARK wants to save constrictors “in trade” from H.R. 6362, or something like it, they better figure out a way to get them off the injurious wildlife list. I left a template for this “lawsuit on the merits” strategy with USARK in 2013 when I resigned over philosophical differences with the Board of Directors. Regardless, they have it sitting on their desk. Hopefully they will have the same kind of success they did with my idea for USARK v. Ryan Zinke.

Why is H.R. 6362 more dangerous than H.R. 669?
In short… Republican lawmakers. Although all of the usual suspects who have supported the bill in the past are still likely to support it in the future, invasive species and associated parasites and pathogens are a grave concern, not only to native wildlife, but to agribusiness. We aren’t just talking about a bunch of left wing crazies championing the bill anymore, but also the likelihood that Republican lawmakers will will support H.R. 6362, or its follow up, in order to protect ranchers and farmers from the threat of business losses due to invasive species related threats.

Let’s face it, the majority of lawmakers, Republican and Democrat alike, don’t think it’s a good idea to have injurious non-native wildlife in this country— and they certainly don’t think transporting injurious species, parasites and pathogens across state lines without rigorous regulation is a good idea. H.R. 6362 is bad for a lot of reasons. But that doesn’t mean it won’t pass— or something like it. My biggest problem is a fundamental one— the arbitrary authority given to the Secretary of DOI to do what he thinks best, without real recourse from legitimate stake holders. NO on H.R. 6362.

***The lobbyist for USARK doesn’t think that the language from the H.R. 6362 will outright ban possession of injurious wildlife. She may be right, but it could very well be a point that must be clarified in court, should this measure pass. You be the judge…

      (a) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subsection (b) and section 8, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States—
        (1) to import into the United States or transport between States any wildlife designated as an injurious wildlife taxon or taxa;
          (2) to possess any wildlife designated as an injurious wildlife taxon or taxa, or a descendant of that wildlife, that was imported or transported in violation of this Act;

Andrew Wyatt is a government affairs and policy consultant dedicated exclusively to the wildlife sector. Vitello Consulting for the Win!

Andrew_Bolton 2018

Andrew Wyatt and National Security Advisor John Bolton in the “Green Room” at FOX News

“In an arena known to be dominated by powerful special interest groups, Vitello Consulting has created a niche providing tailored advocacy strategies that are leveling the playing field for wildlife clients on Capitol Hill— And in 2014 we began offering state level advocacy that has negated most of the legislative and regulatory initiatives impacting our clients in state capitols across the country. Please follow The Last Word on Wildlife for insight and analysis particular to the 21st century wildlife sector. If you would like to discuss the advantages of creating a comprehensive business/government affairs strategy, or a more targeted issue campaign, please call or email me.” — Andrew Wyatt

©Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word on Wildlife, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word on Wildlife with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Material posted from guest writers is the sole intellectual property of the author. Please seek permission directly from the author prior to reproducing in whole or in part.

Pythons, Politics, Rumor & Controversy: Clarification on the Constrictor Rule

This article has been re-posted from the US Herpetoculture Alliance at http://usherp.org/?p=3137

The Thanksgiving notification given to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) by US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) that there would be another step toward the finalization of the Constrictor Rule in early 2014 has turned the herpetoculture industry on its ear. Confusion is rampant in the community. Accusations have been leveled as to responsibility, and the reptile and pet industry trade associations are scrambling trying to effect damage control. But the situation is not nearly as complicated as some would make it out to be.

photo: USGS- Green Anaconda

photo: USGS- Green Anaconda

At stake here is the trade in large constricting snakes that have been slated for addition to the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. In 2011 FWS proposed a rule to add nine constricting snakes to the Injurious Species List. The trade in these nine species was estimated to be in excess of $100 million annually, potentially making the rule fall into the “major” rule classification which would mandate that the rule making process be rigorous and subject to information quality standards.

Subsequently, FWS published a partial rule in the Federal Register in January 2012; listing four of the proposed nine snakes on the injurious list, and holding the remaining five out as continuing to be “under consideration.” Since the rule was published USARK, PIJAC and US Herpetoculture Alliance have gone back and forth to Washington DC discussing further finalization of the ‘Constrictor Rule’ in order to remove the onus of the “under consideration” designation from the remaining five snakes that were not listed. The argument was this designation was tantamount to a de-facto listing and was destroying legal trade.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Seeks To Add More Snake As Injurious Wildlife

US Fish & Wildlife Service Seeks To Add More Snake As Injurious Wildlife

Fast forward to Monday, December 2, 2013. The US Herpetoculture Alliance was made aware that FWS had notified OIRA of it’s intention to finalize in full, or in part, the listing of the remaining five snakes still “under consideration” as a part of the ‘Constrictor Rule’. As reported, the notification abstract published last week indicated: “We are making a final determination on the listing of five species of large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act: Reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, Beni anaconda, and boa constrictor. Four of the nine proposed species were listed in 77 FR 3330. This rule will determine the status of the remaining five species under the same RIN.” ~ US Fish & Wildlife Service, December 2013

In the wake of this discovery we began to further research the FWS/ OIRA records over the last year. We found an even more ominous notification from July 2013 that no one had ever reported on: “We are making a final determination to list four species of large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act: Reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda. The boa constrictor is still under consideration for listing. Four of the nine proposed species were listed in 77 FR 3330. This rule will list four more under the same RIN. One more species will remain under consideration for listing under the same RIN.” ~ US Fish & Wildlife Service, July 2013

Both of these notices are part of the public record. They are not privileged information. They are available to anyone who looks for them. Neither notice is subject to interpretation. They are both the exact language used by FWS. Please follow the links and read them for yourself.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~ Buddha

The reality is that this is not super secret national security stuff. It is all public record. FWS has sent clear signals that they intend to finalize the ‘Constrictor Rule’ very soon; probably by February 2014. What is also very clear is that, according to their own notice, they will likely add reticulated pythons and the three remaining anacondas to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act; while continuing to leave boa constrictors “under consideration” for future listing.

photo: USGS- Boa Constrictor

photo: USGS- Boa Constrictor

The biggest question in our mind is whether FWS will actually stop short of listing boa constrictor. We think that they will not include boa constrictors in this action, but they can do whatever they want, and publish whatever they want. They are NOT restricted by the notices they have made a part of the public record. The Herp Alliance truly hopes that FWS will decide NOT to list any more snakes. We will not know for sure until FWS publishes the final rule in the Federal Register.

In 2012 the “rumor” circulating among Washington insiders was that only two snakes would actually get listed in the final rule. As you know four were listed. Today our best guess is that four of the remaining five will get listed; with reticulated pythons being added to the list and boas escaping for the time being. We sincerely hope it will not be all five that get listed. Our endeavor is to make the best information available to the herpetoculture community. We hope this clarifies some of the confusion.