Everglades National Park (Pic by Rodney Cammauf, National Park Service; via army.mil)

A group of Florida lawmakers is urging the White House to stop delaying action on a rule that would ban the import of tens of thousands of large constricting snakes — snakes that have caused major problems for South Florida.

At least nine Florida lawmakers have spoken out in support of the finalization of a rule  to list nine species of large constrictor snakes as “injurious” under the Lacey Act, which regulates trade in wildlife. The rule, which was proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been awaiting action since March 2011.

The most recent letter was penned by House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and former Chairman C.W. Bill Young, R-Dunedin, and was written in conjunction with the United States Humane Society.

“As senior members of the House Committee on Appropriations long concerned about conservation and federal spending,” reads the letter, “we simply cannot afford additional spending in the billions to control invasive species. … We must begin to turn around this problem and to prevent it from spreading, and adopting the rule is the most important thing we can do on that front.”

A similar letter, signed by seven representatives from Florida, was sent to the White House in November. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., also penned a letter concerning invasive pythons late last month.

Not only are exotic predators like Burmese pythons a major safety concern, but attempting to control them is a drain on the budget. The United States has spent billions of dollars to restore the Everglades, including protection efforts for endangered species — but the overwhelming amount of snakes in South Florida could pose a threat to restoration efforts.

South Florida has been invaded by non-native snakes for the past several years. Experts estimate that there are anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 pythons now in the Everglades area — and are likely there as a result of pet owners who have set them free. Though pythons are fairly easy (and inexpensive) to acquire, they can grow to be more than 20 feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds.

The U.S. Department of Interior expects to spend $100 million in 2011 controlling invasive species across the country.

“Pythons have killed a two-year-old toddler in Florida, swallowed alligators and gulped down a deer,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, in a press release sent out today. “It’s only a matter of time before Florida officials discover that a python has killed a Florida panther or some other endangered animal. We must stop the trade in these constricting snakes, so we don’t add to an already dangerous situation.”

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