WASHINGTON — After pushing for months, Representative Josh Harder’s (CA-10) bipartisan bill to fight the invasion of giant South American swamp rats passed the House of Representatives today with unanimous support. The bill would reauthorize an expired program that helped Maryland successfully run the invaders out of the Chesapeake Bay and allocate $12 million to help affected states. Since the invasive rat first reappeared in California in 2017, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has removed over 800 animals from the Central Valley. Rep. Harder is joined on the bill by Republican Garrett Graves of Louisiana as well as fellow California Representatives Jim Costa, TJ Cox, John Garamendi, Barbara Lee, and Jimmy Panetta.
“Nutria threaten farmers, indigenous wildlife, and our water infrastructure – it’s time to bring in the cavalry and drive them out of the Valley – that’s just what my bill would do,” said Rep. Harder. “This is a bipartisan concern and today’s unanimous vote proves that Washington can, in fact, get something done.”
“Despite the promises made by politicians in Washington, voluntary taxation hasn’t raised a single cent from nutria colonies to help repair the damages they’re causing across Louisiana’s coast. So, we’re expanding the bounty program to control the invasive nutria population, reduce the loss of coastal and wetland acreage, and generate millions of dollars for Louisiana to help restore the destruction of impacted lands,” said Rep. Graves.
Nutria were originally introduced to the United States as part of the fur trade in the late 1800s but were eradicated from California in the 1970s. The invasive rat made a sudden reappearance in 2017. Over 800 have been taken from the wild since then. Nutria can devour up to 25 percent of their body weight daily and one female can lead to 200 offspring per year. These invaders threaten water infrastructure, certain crops, and indigenous wildlife.
In June of 2019, Rep. Harder introduced his bill to reauthorize the Nutria Eradication and Control Act of 2003. Since its introduction, the bill has been amended to direct $12 million to programs in nutria-impacted states, including California.
The programs supported by the bill encourage habitat protection, education, research, monitoring, and capacity building to provide for the long-term protection of wetlands from destruction caused by nutria. Following today’s vote, the bill will be sent to the Senate.
Representative Harder has repeatedly pushed to pass the bill. In September, he brought a life-size taxidermy nutria to a Congressional hearing to illustrate the threat posed by the invader for his colleagues. In a separate hearing, he brought a graphic example of the invasion curve (colloquially referred to as a “#RatChart”) to demonstrate the need to act urgently.
This is the tenth piece of legislation authored by Rep. Harder to pass the House of Representatives.
–The Office of Representative Josh Harder (CA-10)
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