Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to introduce the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act. This legislation significantly strengthens the ability of federal regulators to make rapid, science-based decisions on whether non-native fish or wildlife species pose a risk to ecosystems within the United States and cause economic damage or threaten public health.
Invasive species are a persistent and costly thorn in the side of the American taxpayer. In Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011, the federal budget allocated approximately $120 million to control the Asian carp. Meanwhile the U.S. is spending tens of millions more dollars to control other invaders, such as wetland-destroying nutria and two python species established in south Florida.
Yet, federal regulators are frequently slow to respond to emerging threats. Invasive species are currently regulated by the Lacey Act, a 112-year-old law that gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) only limited power to declare non-native animals as ``injurious'' and prohibit their importation and interstate sales. In fact, it takes the FWS an average of four years to officially list a species as injurious and take appropriate action. Experts and interested parties repeatedly describe this regulatory approach as reactive and ineffective.
Alternatively, the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act would give the FWS streamlined authority to prevent invasions using modern scientific approaches. The bill also creates a category of ``Injurious II'' species, which are not suited as private pets or aquarium species, but can be held safely by qualified zoos, aquaria, research facilities and other institutions without any need for a Federal permit. This exemption is broader than current law, which requires a Federal permit for transactions in all listed species, a requirement that is becoming unworkable as more animals are listed.
We must take critical steps now to prevent the next Asian carp, Burmese python, or red lionfish crisis. These destructive invaders will continue to come into our country via globalized trade until Congress steps in to make a difference.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation.