The PJ Tatler

Lawmakers Call for 'Rapid Response Teams' Against Big, Hungry Snakes

What, can you imagine, would bring Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) and Allen West (R) together? Things that slither. Not in Washington per se, but through the Everglades in their home state, gobbling everything in their non-native python paths. Escaped and released snakes in Florida’s wetlands have raised concern for years, but a recent report about the pythons’ impact on the ecosystem had some shocking statistics on just how much the snakes are feasting: raccoon sightings down 99 percent, bobcats down 87 percent, deer down 94 percent.

So Florida lawmakers have banded together to demand a plan of action from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Yesterday, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) sent a letter co-signed by Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Reps. Wassermen Schultz, West, Frederica Wilson (D), Ted Deutch (D), C.W. Bill Young (R), Kathy Castor (D), Mario Diaz-Balart (R), David Rivera (R) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) praising the administration’s prohibition of interstate transport and importation of large, non-native snake species. However, they said the ban didn’t go far enough, and left off breeds such as the boa constrictor.

It also doesn’t address the current problem of the Everglades snake smorgasbord, the lawmakers told Salazar:

Even conservative estimates state the possibility of thousands of these large snakes already loose and breeding. We would like to know if the Department of Interior has a similar comprehensive plan for the snakes, and what else the Department plans to do on the issue. In addition, does the Department have any plans to develop or support rapid response teams that can address reports of large snake species that have not yet become established in the wild?

As you know, the federal government plays a critically important role in Everglades restoration. There are hundreds of millions of federal dollars invested in Everglades restoration efforts. The Everglades are a unique national treasure found nowhere else in the world. We must protect this crucial and beautiful ecosystem. A comprehensive plan for dealing with these invasive species would help to do just that.

In 2000, Congress authorized a 30-year, $8.2 billion plan to restore the Everglades ecosystem, much of it damaged by federal water projects. By 2010, that estimate had jumped to a 50-year timeframe and a bill of $13.5 billion.

One python, incidentally, could equal many new pairs of Jimmy Choos for Nancy Pelosi.