Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, today praised full Committee passage of his bill S. 899, which reauthorizes and expands the Nutria Eradication program.
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. In Maryland alone, the cost to the state’s economy due to loss of wetlands in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was estimated at $4 million dollars annually.
“Today we are one step closer to saving Maryland’s wetlands and economy from devastating losses cause by nutria,” said Senator Cardin. “Other coastal states also will benefit enormously from nutria eradication techniques that have already saved countless acres of wetlands in Maryland and Louisiana. Our economy and marshlands cannot afford to sustain the damage caused by this incredibly invasive species.”
The federally funded Maryland Nutria Project launched in 2000 and has helped eradicate nutria from 150,000 acres in Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, Talbot and Caroline counties. A similar program in Louisiana has resulted in the rehabilitation of 70,000 acres of wetlands.
Cardin’s Nutria Eradication and Control Act of 2011 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to continue providing financial assistance for these successful programs in Maryland and Louisiana, and would also competitively fund new programs in Delaware, Oregon, Washington, Virginia and North Carolina to eradicate and control nutria populations and restore nutria-damaged wetlands. The program is authorized the at $6 million through 2016, thus maintaining funding at the Fiscal Year 2008 level even while expanding the program to five additional states.
Also co-sponsoring the bill are U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).