Harder Bill for Nutria Invasion Passes

Harder’s Bipartisan Bill to Fight Giant Rodent Invasion Passes Committee with Unanimous Support

Over 800 Nutria Have Been Removed from California Since Being Spotted in 2017

 

Representative Josh Harder’s (CA-10) bill to combat the invasion of nutria, an invasive species of giant rodent, has passed the House Natural Resources Committee with unanimous support.

Josh Harder
Congressman Harder

The bill as amended would provide $12 million to nutria-impacted states, including California. Since the animal 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.

“I had a chance to see the great work California Fish and Wildlife is doing for myself, but it’s clear that we need some backup,” said Rep. Harder. “Our bipartisan bill would bring the federal support we need to states like California to end this invasion and send the swamp rats packing.”

“Nutria are an invasive species that have contributed to the 2800 square miles of the coastal wetlands loss in Louisiana,” said Rep. Graves. “Since our efforts to teach nutria abstinence have failed and they apparently taste like a car tire, we must expand our bounty program to eradicate these pests. The bill we passed today provides millions of dollars in funding to Louisiana and other states while allowing for the restoration of impacted lands. I appreciate Cong. Harder and our other partners working with us to pass this important legislation”.

 

“Nutria are wreaking havoc on our water infrastructure in the Valley, destroying canals, levees, wetlands, and crops,” said Rep. Costa. “I’m pleased Chairman Grijalva and the Natural Resources Committee voted to advance this legislation today and I am hopeful it will continue to move through the legislative process so we can deliver results for the Valley.”

“The Central Valley needs resources to fight this invasive species, so I’m proud to join my Valley colleagues in supporting bipartisan legislation that brings resources to California to help us turn the tables on the Nutria, protecting our crops and waterways,” said Rep. Cox.

“These invasive rodents are incredibly destabilizing for the local levees and flood control infrastructure that keeps our communities safe. Sacramento and the Central Valley are already flood prone regions, and we must do everything in our power to ensure nutria don’t exacerbate that risk,” said Rep. Garamendi. “We already know there’s a program with a proven track record of eradicating these pests, and our legislation would bring that program to the region and rid our communities of these rodents at a minimal cost. I’m pleased that this legislation has passed the Natural Resources Committee unanimously, and I applaud Congressman Harder’s leadership on this issue.” 

In June of 2019, Rep. Harder along with his fellow Central Valley representatives introduced a bill to reauthorize the Nutria Eradication and Control Act of 2003 and direct $12 million to programs in nutria-impacted states. 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 committee vote, the bill will next be considered on the House Floor.

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. They 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.

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.

Nutria Swamp Rats Need Control

$7 Million Legislation Announce to Battle Nutria Swamp Rats

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The nutria swamp rat, similar in size of the common beaver, with a very high reproduction rate, is capable of wide destruction to farm waterways. It has gotten so bad in California that Congressman Josh Harder of Modesto has introduced legislation in order to get funding in an attempt to eradicate the invasive pests.

Josh Harder
Congressman Harder

These swamp rats are taking over California. And for those who aren’t familiar with what a nutria is, it is a giant 40-pound rodent that causes flooding, divert water and eat through farm canals destroy the entire wetlands that the Central Valley relies on.

One of the challenges is that they grow exponentially and one female can have 200 offspring a year. “If we don’t nip this in the bud within a couple of years, they’re going to go from seeing one or two here and there to 250,000 of them in the next five years if we don’t nip it in the bud. So that’s why it’s so critical to get this done early,” noted Harder.

Harder is trying to invest $7 million to eradicate this while it is still early. “While we still have time, we’ve seen this nutria problem in two different states. In Louisiana, they did not nip this problem in the bud and now these nutrients are everywhere. You can’t go two yards without seeing one of these rodents in ag country. It’s really disruptive and they have destroyed a lot of the levies and a lot of the wetlands and, and wrecked-havoc on farms all over Louisiana,” Harder explained.

“On the other hand, Maryland has had an eradication program that has been quite successful, now there are no nutria left in that state. What my bill is trying to do is take that Maryland program and extend it into California because we know it works,” he said.

Controlling nutria is done mostly by trapping right now. But what Maryland has done is they catch one, they sterilize it, and then they throw it back into the population. That female then sniffs out all of its mates and then once we have identified the entire den, all the nutrias are eradicated, with an air gun dart, in a humanly way.  “It’s actually a pretty clever program to make sure that you’re getting every single last one because the issue here is because of that exponential reproduction and growth rate, If we don’t get every animal, it’s never going to end. We have to make sure we’re getting down to zero,” Harder said.

And while nutria is similar looking to beavers, beavers do not have 200 offspring a year. Beavers create their own dams. They’re living their peaceful life, but beavers aren’t out there destroying almonds. They’re not out there destroying canals. So, they may look similar, but the nutria is an invasive species and because it grows so quickly, it’s much more important to make sure we’re rooting them out early.

Optimistic the Legislation Will Pass

“I’m very optimistic about it because we have a really strong precedent for this issue. This is a bipartisan issue supported by Republicans and Democrats. We can point to the federal program that has been successful in Maryland.

“And you know, the biggest thing I hear from folks is they say, why should we spend $7 million on this program? And I say, if we don’t spend $7 million today, our farmers are going to be spending hundreds of millions, if not billions,” said Harder, “Over time, because if you look at how much Louisiana is spending right now, they have no hope of eradication. This is a fiscally responsible measure because it’s going to prevent major problems and expenses.”

Nutrias 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 species was rediscovered in the Central Valley in 2017. There have been 531 nutrias removed from the Central Valley since this first sighting.