The fight to stop The Python Ban has been long, hard and is ongoing. USARK took decisive action beginning last summer to stop HR2811 and S373 from passing both Houses of Congress. As a result HR2811 was scaled back from the original 40 species targeted, down to two species in its current form. S373 was amended from 40 species to the 9 species listed in a recent USGS report. These two bills in their current form are NOT acceptable to USARK and the Reptile Nation. If passed as they are now written they would still destroy about one billion dollars a year of the high quality captive bred reptile trade. This is about free trade and American jobs. Individual livelihoods can't be allowed to fall victim to the ideological agenda of powerful special interest groups. Sound policy supported by real science must trump political expedience. Congressional Budget Office scores S373 The CBO scored S373 over the weekend. They did a poor job and apparently discounted the economic submissions of USARK and other members of the reptile industry. The CBO characterized the economic impact on private business to be “insignificant”. That means below the threshold of $141 million annually. After being given only two business days to respond USARK reported that S373 would destroy approximately $1 billion a year in trade. Five weeks after the submission deadline the CBO issued a score on S373 that admittedly just duplicated the score for HR2811; citing similarities between the bills. No differentiation was made to account for the fact that HR2811 addressed only two species and S373 addressed 9 species. The score did not reflect the fact that the Boa constrictor is one of the most widely held and most valuable reptiles in the country. There is more dollar value in the trade of the Boa constrictor than all the other species combined several times over. USARK is challenging the CBO for an explanation and considers this score fundamentally flawed. Click here to read S373 CBO Score: http://usark.org/uploads/s373cbo_score.pdf USARK Kill-S373 Letter Campaign The Reptile Nation responded to the USARK Kill-S373 Letter Campaign in record numbers! More than 13,000 real written letters have been hand delivered to the Senate by USARK from over 6500 individuals!! There are still more to be counted. That is more than twice the response (in terms of the number of people participating) we generated in the USARK Kill-HR669 Letter Campaign last spring, and over five times the response to the Notice of Inquiry in 2008. This has been a wildly successful campaign and our voices have been heard on “The Hill”. Our blockbuster grass roots campaign has lent strong support to the message our team of professional consultants have been communicating to our high level contacts in Congress. With the letter from the US Chamber of commerce opposing S373, and the letter from an independent group of scientists suggesting the poor quality of information supplied by the recent USGS report, the Reptile Nation has made a very strong case. Thank you to ALL who have participated. You should feel proud of your outstanding effort! Meeting with Senator Ben Cardin On Thursday January 21, 2010 a USARK contingent had a personal meeting with Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Senate EPW Committee. Mr. Calman J. Zamoiski, Jr, David & Tracy Barker, Andrew Wyatt and Frank Vitello were in attendance. Senator Cardin was gracious and sincerely concerned about the issue of invasive species citing ongoing problems associated with nutria in his home state of Maryland. USARK conceded that invasive species posed potential problems for ecosystems, but pointed out that on the isolated issue of Burmese Pythons in the southern tip of Florida the problem had become overly sensationalized and politicized. Senator Cardin was well aware that Dept of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has called for initiation of the process of ‘Rule Change’ to the Lacey Act in regards to the 9 pythons and Boas listed in the recent USGS report on large constrictors. USARK suggested that the scientific process was a more appropriate avenue to address the boa and python question rather than legislating science. Senator Cardin agreed and reiterated his intention to work with Senator Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate EPW Committee, to improve the bill. Additionally Senator Cardin committed to talk with the bill’s sponsor Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) regarding the future of S373. USARK would like to thank Senator Cardin for his fair minded consideration of the devastating impact that S373 could have on American families and small business. Conclusions The comprehensive political strategy employed by USARK and supported by the grass roots efforts of the Reptile Nation has had significant impact on The Python Ban legislation embodied by HR2811/ S373. We have put ourselves in a position to succeed and we will continue to do the hard work necessary to prevail. Both bills have been passed out of committee and await floor votes. USARK has made it clear to politicians on “The Hill” that there is much opposition to these bills on many levels. The opposition is bi-partisan and concerned about loss of jobs and potential bankruptcies. The limited science produced by USGS that is being used to justify HR2811/ S373 is of the poorest quality. The original intent of these bills seeks to circumvent real science. We believe that those in Congress who are paying attention to this issue will now be content to let the process move forward through the USFWS established process of 'Rule Change'. Congressional floor time is at a premium and we don’t anticipate a vote anytime soon. These situations are always fluid and could change at any time, but we believe the focus will now move to USFWS and their bid to effect 'Rule Change' to the Lacey Act. USARK and the Reptile Nation have done a GREAT JOB meeting this threat to the future of our community!