After Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) led an effort to make California eligible to receive federal funding to eradicate invasive nutria, the House of Representatives passed legislation that allows the state to apply for millions of dollars in federal funding to combat the pest. The bill also increases the total amount allocated to three programs through the Fish and Wildlife Service which help states and local residents combat invasive species, including the nutria. The legislation must now be passed through the Senate or be included in the final “Conference Report” which irons out the differences between the two chambers’ versions of the bill and then signed into law.
“This is a huge win for farmers and environmentalists in the Valley,” said Rep. Harder. “Both groups are concerned about the swamp rat invasion and rightly so – if we don’t get these things under control in the next couple years, they will overrun our farms and wetlands. We brought together Democrats and Republicans to actually get something done in this area. Turns out working together on a commonsense problem can actually yield results.”
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 giant rat made a sudden reappearance in 2017. Over 1,500 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. The state has funded efforts to combat the invaders, but experts note that federal assistance will be necessary to fully eradicate them.
In 2003, Congress passed The Nutria Eradication and Control Act, which established a fund to help states combat the invasive species. However, until now, the law only allowed Maryland and Louisiana to access it. As a result of Harder’s efforts, California will be able to access this program and two others for the purpose of combatting the nutria once a House bill, which was passed on July 24, is signed into law. The House Appropriations bill, H.R. 7608, the State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, includes an additional $1.2 million in funding for the Nutria Eradication program, and accompanying language allows more states impacted by nutria to access these dollars. In addition to the Nutria Eradication and Control program, California will be able to apply to the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program and Wildlife Habitat and Management program.
Earlier this year, Rep. Harder worked to pass a separate bill he authored through the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support, which would add even more funding to the Nutria Eradication and Control program and formally expand eligibility to include all nutria-impacted states. It has not yet passed the Senate.
Harder has repeatedly pushed to pass his 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.