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Massachusetts herp laws: UPDATE

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Posted by: MassLawGeek at Tue May 28 22:24:24 2013  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by MassLawGeek ]  

Hi All,

Time for an update on the herptile regulatory going's-on in Massachusetts. In earlier posts, I'd made reference to the Comm. of MA. restricting the possession or sale of ANY animal listed in ANY category on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species website.

Strangely, the IUCN has, within the past few years, begun to list animals that are common and widespread in their categories of Least Concern (LC), Data Deficient (DD) and Not Evaluated (NE). For an international organization devoted to the conservation of threatened species, the arbitrary listing of those species understood to be "common and widespread" (wording taken from the definition of the Least Concern (LC) category) seems odd.

The MA. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is MANDATED BY LEGISLATIVE LAW to restrict those species mentioned on the list. I will not list any species here because it would cause a panic. You may search the website yourself.

The "intent" of the restriction by the MDFW, enacted in the early 80's, was a good-faith method of conservation. Most state DFW agencies only use the threatened categories to restrict possession, but MA. uses ALL categories. Enforcement of the species on this list is non-existent unless species mentioned on the IUCN list are also on the non-exempt (permit required) list in the MDFW CMR's (Code of MA. Regulations). Most Ma. Environmental Police are not astute in herptile laws and I've yet to meet the EPO who could identify any snake, exotic or native on the first try. They are hunting and fishing police, strictly speaking. It's a 9-5 job, no nights, staggered shifts like regular LE and they are sworn, academy-trained state police officers who carry sidearms and have full powers of arrest.

It's not the EPO's I'm worried about. As I sit here in MA., with my collection, I wonder what will happen when we all get a new MDFW Director, one who perhaps isn't as friendly with herpers as our current Director and Assistant Director. This new Director, should he or she wish, could use the IUCN list in its current form, to effectively shut down the reptile industry (such as it is) in Massachusetts.

Therefore, I've written a bill proposal that Sen. Robert Hedlund has turned into a bill at my request. S368 addresses the three "useless" categories on the IUCN list (Least Concern (LC), Data Deficient (DD) and Not Evaluated (NE) and removes the language in the law that restricts the reptiles and amphibians in these three categories.

S368 is currently in the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and should be getting a hearing shortly.

There is still a long road ahead but I remain optimistic and I've got a lot of help at hand.

In addition: I've recently become weary with waiting for regulation change regarding the lifting of prohibition restrictions on the following families and species:

Green tree pythons
Emerald tree boas
The Spiny-tailed monitor (Varanus acanthurus)

So I've filled another bill proposal a few days ago which will seek to legislatively change these regulations instead of waiting for the MDFW to hold a hearing sometime in the very distant future. It has been SEVEN years now since the NEHS was approached by the Ma. Divison of Fisheries & Wildlife seeking to amend these regulations to remove prohibitions on these species. I've repeatedly been told that it's a long process and to be patient. The legislative way MANDATES a change that becomes law, instead of a regulation change that simply becomes a new regulation and subject to the whim of the Director of the MDFW. As a regulation, the Director is free to amend or change it as he or she sees fit. This proposal has not yet been written into a bill and does not yet have a number. I will keep everyone posted. Thanks for reading.


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