SWAMP RATS: Harder’s Bill to Stop Giant Rodent Invasion Passes Senate, Heads to President’s Desk to be Signed into Law
WASHINGTON – Representative Josh Harder’s (CA-10) bill to stop the invasion of the nutria, a giant swamp rat from South America, passed the Senate last night and will be sent to President Trump to be signed into law. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives in February with unanimous, bipartisan support, will reauthorize an expired program that helped Maryland successfully run the invaders out of the Chesapeake Bay and will allocate $12 million to help all affected states. Since the invasive rat first reappeared in California in 2017, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has removed over 1,600 animals from the Central Valley.
“Bipartisanship works! I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with Congressman Graves and Senators Kennedy and Feinstein – and President Trump – to get this done,” said Rep. Harder. “This is a win for everyone – farmers can sleep better knowing their crops and water infrastructure are safe and environmentalists can be happy that the native plants and animals being destroyed by these swamp rats will survive. We proved that you can still get things done in Washington by working across the aisle – even if it takes bringing a dead rat to the Floor of Congress.”
“We’ve spent months hosting meetings with Congressman Harder and representatives of the nutria community, but no solutions have prevailed in our negotiations for their peaceful surrender. Our funds were almost depleted but our spirits remained untouched in the fight for the soul of our marsh and coastal communities,” said Rep. Graves. “With this swift action from the Commander in Chief, the states will have the resources needed to fight back the invasive species that accelerate the destruction of coastal wetlands.”
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 1,600 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. Last year, he brought “Nellie,” a life-size taxidermy nutria to a Congressional hearing to illustrate the threat posed by the invader. 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. In February, during House debate on his bill, Rep. Harder brought Nellie back to the Capitol again – this time to the House floor – to encourage his colleagues to support his bill.
The bill passed the House in a unanimous bipartisan vote. This week, the Senate passed the bill through the “hotline” process, which requires unanimous support from every member of the Senate. Rep. Harder was 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. Identical legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators John Kennedy and Dianne Feinstein.