WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has reintroduced bipartisan legislation to expand nutria eradication efforts in Maryland and Louisiana and to begin eradication programs in four additional coastal states.
The nutria is a large, semi-aquatic rodent that has often been described as “an eating machine” and can eat up to 25 percent of its body weight in plants per day. The nutria is a high-reproductive species that has devastated wetlands in Maryland, Louisiana and other coastal states, turning them into barren mud flats that cannot be re-vegetated.
“I have seen first-hand the damage done by nutria to the wetlands on the Eastern Shore, particularly at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge,” said Senator Cardin, who introduced similar legislation in the 111th Congress. “A strong nutria eradication program is critical to protecting our wetlands from this invasive species that has such a destructive capability.”
It is estimated that nutria have destroyed 5,000 acres of marshland on the Eastern Shore’s Blackwater National Widlife Refuge. The destruction of the wetlands by nutria is costing the Maryland economy $4 million a year from degradation of agricultural land adjacent to the Refuge. In 2000, the federally funded Maryland Nutria Project was launched and it has helped eradicate nutria from 150,000 acres in Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, Talbot and Caroline counties.
The legislation would authorize funding over five years for eradication efforts in Maryland and Louisiana and other coastal states, which include Delaware, Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina, and Washington. Also co-sponsoring the bill are U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Mary L. Landreiu (D-LA), Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).