Press Release

July 8, 2009

Washington, DC –
U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), chairman of EPW’s Oversight Subcommittee, led a joint hearing today examining the threats of disease and invasive species on native wildlife, as well as oversight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s administration of current programs to manage these threats


“The recent emergence Burmese pythons in South Florida and snakehead fish in the Chesapeake Watershed are a direct result of people who simply did not know better releasing these animals into the local environment. Invasive species like these, as well as new or persistent diseases, pose serious threats to native species across the country and can have a severe impact on America’s natural ecosystems, as well as our agriculture, economy and human health,”
said Senator Cardin.
  West Nile and Avian Flu are examples of imported exotic animal diseases with strains that can infect humans.


“It has not been easy, but in some instance we are seeing real progress.
  In 2000, Congress established a federal funding source to develop a public-private partnership program to address nutria in Maryland.
  For nearly six decades at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, nutria have been killing wetland grasses that provide vital habitat for native shorebirds, muskrats and blue crabs not to mention the role these grasses play in maintaining water quality. Nutria are responsible for the loss of more than 5,000 acres of wetlands in Blackwater refuge alone. The loss of these wetlands, that are vital to the fishery, was estimated to cost Maryland’s economy nearly $4 million dollars annually.
  Over the last decade, the partnership has implemented a successful effort to manage the nutria and healthy wetlands are returning to places where they have been removed.
  But the job is not yet done,” Senator Cardin added.


“We must be vigilant and learn more about how to stop the next nutria or snakeheads and the next Avian Flu from ever reaching the U.S.
  Simply managing our current problems is not sufficient policy.”