FWS Lists 201 Salamanders as Injurious

Captive Bred Chinese Fire-bellied Newt

Captive Bred Chinese Fire-bellied Newt

Utilizing the recently enacted Categorical Exclusion, or CatX, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will short-cut procedural checks and balances previously mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Tomorrow FWS will publish an interim rule in the Federal Register adding 201 salamander species to the “Injurious Wildlife” list. The rule will be enacted without the necessity of FWS to submit an Environmental Assessment (EA), or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under NEPA.

The new rule adding many salamanders to the Injurious list will be enacted as of January 28, 2016, and would have been logistically impossible without the enactment of CatX late last year. After January 28th, import or interstate transport of listed salamanders, without a rigorous federal permit, will be prohibited.

Why is FWS listing Salamanders as Injurious?

To help prevent a deadly fungus from killing native salamanders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is publishing an interim rule tomorrow to list 201 salamander species as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act. The fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, also known as Bsal or salamander chytrid, is carried on the skin of various salamander species. Bsal has caused major die-offs of salamanders in Europe and poses an imminent threat to U.S. native salamander populations. — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

While justification for the unprecedented move is not without merit, it bears noting that Bsal has never been found in the U.S., and there has been no evidence of a connection between the spread of Bsal and herpetoculture; the captive production of reptiles and amphibians. Last year, Zoos and the pet industry voluntarily agreed to suspend imports of salamanders into the U.S., increasing speculation regarding FWS’ motivations for the listing. Some will certainly conclude that this move is less about stopping Bsal, and  more about establishing CatX in the law for more liberal future use.

Impact to Herpetoculture
Herpetoculturists will no longer be able to import listed species into the U.S., nor will they be allowed to conduct interstate commerce with captive bred specimens. Regulatory hurdles were put in place for a reason, to avoid arbitrary decision making by agency personnel, and to protect American citizens, business owners and organizations from being run over by their own government. This salamander listing appears to be more about testing the waters for future application of CatX, than stopping Bsal. CatX sets a poor precedent for process and fairness in the regulatory environment. Now that it has been established in the law, stakeholders may be dealing with the consequences of CatX for years to come.


Andrew Wyatt is a government affairs and policy consultant that works exclusively in the wildlife sector. 

WyattP2“The Lacey Act and other wildlife issues are highly charged and contentious. I specialize in working with clients to employ campaign style tactics to change hearts and minds on vital issues in the wildlife sector. Please follow The Last Word for insight and analysis particular to the 21st century wildlife sector. If you would like to discuss the potential advantages of running a targeted issue campaign, and/or a comprehensive government affairs strategy, please call or email me.” ~ Andrew Wyatt


© Andrew Wyatt and The Last Word, 2016. 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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13 thoughts on “FWS Lists 201 Salamanders as Injurious

  1. Setting the stage for more draconian regulations of the herp industry, this is how the regulation hungry pin heads will get there way – one little inch at a time. I have all but given up trying to get folks to appreciate the connection between moves like this and the overall assault on our freedom to work with animals of our choosing. Suck it FWS, people only obey regulations that make sense.

  2. But you’re going about this the wrong way! You need to just stop the imports of salamanders and newts, not interstate travel! You literally had said it’s not in the US, so why should hobbyists suffer!

  3. But they’re going about this entirely wrong! They need to make imports illegal, but the interstate travel ban shouldn’t exist! You even said it, it’s not in the US yet! If there are no more imports of sick Wild Caught (WC) newts and salamanders, the Captive Bred (CB) animals should be immune from any disease, and will not infect wild populations. If you could suggest this, I’d strongly suggest that you try to convince anyone you can that this law is stupid, as we need bans on the imports of salamanders and newts, not the interstate travel of healthy, CB animals

  4. Perhaps the merit of the regulatory application will minimize the importation of Bsal into the U.S. and minimize the spread of the pathogen if and when it does show up. I think protection of our native herpetofauna from introduced pathogens may be worth some inconvenience to herpetoculture at this stage. Remember CatX is a human construct that can be amended or struck down by the same legal system that creates regulatory laws.

  5. Given the record of the do-gooders, it is just as likely that this another camel’s head under the tent rather than a sincere attempt to benefit wildlife.

  6. Pingback: Winds of Change: Opportunity for Gain? | The Last Word on Wildlife

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