Featured image: Burmese python from iNaturalist user Tommy Hui (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
The takeaway message:
A new bill called the SLITHER Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bill aims to identify and control invasive species that are wreaking havoc on South Florida and the Everglades.
What’s going on?
On May 6, Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott introduced a piece of legislation called the SLITHER Act. If passed, the bill will create a team tasked with developing solutions for reducing and controlling certain invasive species in the Everglades and South Florida.
SLITHER stands for “Suppressing Looming Invasive Threats Harming Everglades Restoration.” Besides developing a list of the top ecological offenders, the task force will focus on supporting Everglades research, pushing for “management, control, or eradication activities” and designing strategies and tools for stopping the introduction of more invasive flora and fauna. Details of the policy, like its timeline and costs to carry out, are unclear in the bill text. But some Everglades advocates say any kind of federal support or attention on the issue of invasive species is helpful to their cause.
Why it matters.
Invasive species run rampant in Florida, with more than 500 nonnative plants and animals found across the state. But their impact is especially visible and devastating in the Everglades, a vast 1.5 million-acre wetland that provides habitat for important wildlife and plants and supplies clean drinking water for millions of Floridians.
Many of “Florida’s Least Wanted,” an unofficial list of the top 10 invasive species in the state, can be found in the Everglades and South Florida, including Burmese pythons, cane toads, feral hogs, iguanas, giant African land snails and tegus. The Everglades even has its own list of target invasives for the public to be aware of, called “The Dirty Dozen.” These species tear up manmade infrastructure like building foundations and roads, compete with native species for food and habitat, and upset the general balance of food chains.
Many, like the Burmese python and green iguana, were introduced when household pets got loose and multiplied. Others, like the cane toad, were released in Florida with the intention of controlling agricultural pests, but then got out of control. Plants like the Brazilian pepper tree, Australian pine and Old World climbing fern also threaten to crowd out native vegetation in the Everglades.
What can I do?
- Download the IveGot1 app to report invasive animals and plants in real-time.
- Take active steps to lessen your impact on introducing invasive species, such as not letting pets loose and being conscientious with yard waste.
- Get familiar with invasive species throughout Florida.
- About the story of the Everglades’ invasive species.
- About how animals that “slither” like the Burmese python are affecting Florida ecosystems.
- About initiatives for Everglades restoration.
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