The whole idea behind the late winter NARBC show in Tinley is to have a summit for USARK, PIJAC and our community about the “State of the Union”. After all it was a summit put on by the NARBC that spawned USARK in the first place. Over the last few years the reptile hobby has come under attack on many levels, but the legislation that has been proposed and passed has been the major concern, hence this summit. I think we all had high hopes that something good would come from this meeting.
A lot of the major players in the reptile community made the trip to the show in support, even if they were not vending, but what was more impressive to me was the reptile hobbyist that showed up, not only show their support, but hoping for answers. Did they get many answers from the “panel” summit? In short.. no…. The night was filled with information, things like how we dealt with past proposed bills, the NOI for Lacey and so on… but not nearly enough time was spent on where we go from here. I think it’s simple, people are passionate about their reptiles and want to know what they can do to help the cause in protecting our hobby. Unfortunately not much came from the nearly three hour summit. It wasn’t a total lost, Justin Mietz delivered a passionate talk about heading up a National Herp Society and Andrew from USARK explained the path that the organization has taken the past few years along with a great opening by Kenan Harkin from the Burmese Python Initiative.
In my opinion, too much time was spent on where we’ve been and not enough on where we were going? By time the “panel” was excepting questions more then half the audience had left. Do I blame them? Not at all, it was far from exciting for the most part and relatively boring to be honest. I’m not saying that there was not great information, but maybe just not the right forum for long winded dissertation about policies and best practices. In the end the people wanted answers, needed direction and leadership. As one of the panel members I will be the first to say that neither was really delivered. When the meeting finally wrapped up I left with a bad feeling in my stomach. We were given a forum to lead and for the most part we failed with arguing about silly things such as “Are you sure we can’t take Burmese Pythons across State lines” and “We can’t get insurance for our Gators”. While both are important topics, we beat them to death spending more then a half hour on each topic. All while avoiding the real issue… What can we all do to help…
I know I wasn’t the only person that felt the night was a failure and I certainly was not the only person that felt we had to take something positive out of this meeting. We need to unite as a community and this summit was a perfect example of the in fighting and division within the leadership of the hobby. Then Kevin McCurely from NERD came to me with an idea on how we can bring the community together and have a place for everyone to go for answers and resources to help put a positive face on the hobby, just what we need. We will take as many of the industry leaders and unite them on one mission. Listen, we’re all are working hard individually, but together we can be ten times stronger, maybe a thousand times stronger? This sounded very promising.The rest of the weekend was spent brainstorming and meeting with as many people as we could. It’s still in the early stages and tons of details need to be worked out, but the unity amongst the leaders of the hobby was inspiring. People that I know have had differences put them aside and sat side by side willing to work together for the better of the hobby. I’m not going to lie, I was starting to losing hope, but after this weekend I see the potential for great things. I don’t want anyone to think for one minute that this “new” project is about industry leaders alone, it will be set up where we will need each and everyone of you. We want to reach the kid that bought his first leopard Gecko from Petco, the biology teacher that wants to introduce reptiles to their classroom, the wildlife educator, the serious hobbyist as well as the law makers and everyone in between. We’ll be in support on USARK and PIJAC and will help them in their fights. We’ll be able to give them guidance along with be the vehicle to reach the masses when they have answers to all of our questions.
I can assure you that we’ll be sharing more information as things move along. This will be a monumental task to get rolling, but I can tell you this… I believe that each and every person we spoke to will do whatever it takes to make this happen. Whether we want to except it or not, people expect the leaders of the community to guide the hobby, and it’s about time that we step up and start doing what we can to keep this hobby alive! While this is only the first step, and on the surface the NARBC summit seemed to be a dud, there was some major successes hatched. Now you guys need to keep our feet to the fire and make sure we follow through. And if you see someone that you respect not doing their part you need to speak up! Most importantly don’t forget… you are the most important part of this whole thing. Get ready for a wild ride people! It’s going to be epic!