Thursday, July 14, 2011

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Passes Three Water and Wildlife Bills

Yesterday (July 13) by voice vote the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved three water and wildlife bills that relate to Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico coastal ecosystem conservation and restoration.  The three bills are:
  • S. 1313, the Clean Estuaries Act of 2011 (introduced by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), David Vitter (R-LA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT)). This measure would amend the Clean Water Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program. The bill would also revise the purpose of management conferences convened to guide voluntary estuary restoration efforts and expand requirements governing comprehensive conservation and management plans prepared by estuary programs. It also seeks to improve the National Estuary Program's accountability by requiring regular evaluations to determine if the goals of improving water quality and habitat are being met.
  • S. 899, the Nutria Eradication and Control Act of 2011, a bill that would reauthorize a nutria eradication program and require the Secretary of the Department of Interior to continue a long-term nutria control or eradication program in Louisiana and Maryland (and extend the program to new states, including Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington). S. 899 was introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and is cosponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Kay Hagan (D-NC).  Background: Nutria is a large, semi-aquatic rodent native to South America that was originally brought to the United States in 1889 for its fur.  When the nutria fur market collapsed in the 1940s, thousands of nutria were released into the wild by ranchers who could no longer afford to feed and house them, and soon after, feral populations became established in the Gulf Coastal area.  Recognized in the US as an invasive species, nutria is now found in 22 states, and is well-established in 16 states.  The nutria's relatively high reproductive rate combined with a lack of natural population controls have resulted in a proliferation of the species.  In many regions the damage to wetland plants they cause is severe.  
  • S. 538, a bill to amend and reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.  Introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill would reauthorize a grants program to promote the conservation of migratory birds in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Each bill now goes on to the full Senate for consideration.

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