The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposal in the final days of the Trump administration to alter the guidelines protecting alligators, a move opponents see as a way around the possibility Louisiana might lose a legal challenge to California’s ban on alligator products.
“The government is taking comments until March 22 on the proposal to remove 12 words that let states regulate sales or transfers of ‘any American alligator specimen’ within their boundaries,” the Associated Press (AP) reported Monday.
Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries backs the change and credits the alligator’s comeback mostly to private conservation.
“But opponents say the proposal is an effort to boost the chances of lawsuits filed by state of Louisiana and companies in California, Florida and Texas against the state of California over its decision to ban the import and sale of alligator products,” the report continued:
In Louisiana, landowners can charge alligator farmers who want to collect eggs from their land. That gives them a reason to keep marshes and swampland in good shape, helping a large number of species that are still endangered, threatened or being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the state says.
Louisiana is arguing, however, that private landowners’ conservation efforts are largely responsible for the rebound of the American alligator and its removal from the endangered species list.
The California law “will hinder these proven conservation methods and, in our view, violates federal law and the constitution,” the state wildlife and fisheries department said in a statement.
In October, a federal judge struck down California’s ban on the products, according to nola.com.
“Judge Kimberly Mueller of the U.S. District Court for California’s Eastern District ruled that the state’s ban, passed in 2019, runs counter to federal laws that allow the import and sale of certain alligator and crocodile products,” the outlet said.
After federal protection began in 1967, Louisiana now estimates there are two million alligators in the state and 900,000 on alligator farms “which collect eggs from the wild and return 10% of the captive-raised reptiles once they’re big enough to have no wild predators,” the AP article said.