For Immediate Release, April 22, 2021

Contact:

Stephanie Kurose, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 849-8395, skurose@biologicaldiversity.org
Daniela Arellano, NRDC, (424) 268-6677, darellano@nrdc.org

Biden Administration Urged to Use Lacey Act to Ban Wildlife Imports That May Spread Disease

WASHINGTON— In a bid to reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases entering the United States, a group of conservation organizations urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to assess and designate wildlife species as “injurious” based on their potential to transmit diseases that could threaten human health.

The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March, provided the Service with $10 million to carry out additional Lacey Act activities related to wildlife trade and COVID-19. But it did not specify how to spend that funding. Under the Lacey Act, once a species is added to the list of injurious wildlife, it may not be imported into the United States.

As today’s letter to the Service explains, “given the COVID-19 pandemic has likely cost the U.S. economy $10 trillion or more, it is eminently reasonable to use the Lacey Act in a manner that proactively addresses species that could pose a risk of spreading zoonotic disease.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Service should move quickly to halt these dangerous wildlife imports,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s extremely hard to predict where the next pandemic will originate, so the only way to truly reduce the risk of diseases like COVID-19 is to stop importing wildlife before another virus jumps to people. By taking a look-before-you-leap approach, the United States could help stop another pandemic before it happens.”

The groups that sent today’s letter are urging the agency to use funds Congress provided in the American Rescue Plan Act to review broad taxonomic groups of wildlife species, such as all bats or all rodents, that could transmit infectious diseases and then “take a precautionary approach to list them before they become the next source of a significant disease outbreak.”

“The Biden administration must do everything it can to prevent another devastating pandemic, including eliminating the importation of dangerous wildlife,” said Zak Smith, director of international wildlife conservation at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “International trade in many wildlife species is a public health threat and drives the catastrophic decline of species around the planet. Importing these animals inches them closer and closer to extinction and puts Americans closer and closer to another pandemic. The Fish and Wildlife Service must use the Lacey Act to help prevent another traumatic experience like the one we’re living through.”

Other groups joining today’s letter include the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Humane Society of the United States.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

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