GOP’s Pro-Python Policy Devastates Florida’s Everglades

Florida, the location of today’s presidential primary, is dealing with a host of problems, including a moribund housing market and long-term unemployment that is the worst in the nation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, according to a new study out today, Florida’s Everglades ecosystem is being devastated by Burmese pythons:

In areas where the pythons have established themselves, marsh rabbits and foxes can no longer be found. Sightings of raccoons are down 99 percent, opossums 98.9 percent and white-tailed deer 94 percent according to a paper out Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. […]

The first reports of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades began in the 1980s; a breeding population wasn’t confirmed there until 2000.

Since then, the numbers of pythons sighted and captured in the Everglades has risen dramatically. According to Linda Friar with Everglades National Park, park personnel have captured or killed 1,825 pythons since 2000.Now researchers have shown that just as python populations established themselves, the native mammals of the regions began to decline — severely.

“What if the stock market had declined that much? Think of the adjectives you’d use for that,” said Gordon Rodda, an invasive-species specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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The Obama administration has actually moved on new regulations meant to limit the damage wrought by these snakes, finalizing a rule making it illegal to import or move Burmese pythons across state lines. “We must do all we can to battle its spread and to prevent further human contributions of invasive snakes that cause economic and environmental damage,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

House Republicans, notably, derided this regulation as damaging to small businesses and job creation, going so far as to bring a snake breeder to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who said the rule could “devastate a small but thriving sector of the economy.” A House Republican report even derided the regulation as “a solution in search of a problem.” But that problem is all too real in Florida, where Snakes on a Plane is closer to a horrifying reality show than it is to a job creation plan.