MIAMI, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke at Everglades Airboat Expeditions.
The governor was in the Everglades to talk about conserving Florida’s natural resources, and environmental preservation budgets, and announce registration was open for the Florida Python Challenge.

Also speaking at the event were Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto, FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton, South Florida Water Management District Vice Chairman Scott Wagner and SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett.

“The Everglades is a diverse ecosystem, we are protecting this ecosystem in a variety of different ways. One of the things we have to do is look at the toll that these invasive Burmese Pythons have on the Everglades,” DeSantis said. “It’s just unbelievable what they will ravage when they’re there. They’re not native here, how they got here, there’s a long history of that, but the reality is they can exact serious destruction on the overall ecosystem.”

DeSantis said they viewed the pythons as a challenge, and wanted to “supercharge” efforts to get the pythons out of the Everglades and preserve the native wildlife. The governor also talked about various steps to combat the python presence in the state.

“We’re putting a lot on the line to do that,” DeSantis said. “This is something that will generate a lot of interest, and not just throughout southern Florida, not just throughout the state of Florida, it generates interest all over the United States and even in other places around the world, and that is our annual Python Challenge.”

He announced that registration for the 2022 Florida Python Challenge had opened, with the event to run from Aug. 5 to Aug. 14. It is the ninth annual challenge conducted in the state of Florida for python management.

“This challenge allows the public to engage direct, hands-on in Everglades restoration,” DeSantis said. “You can win prizes and of course, you will be doing a public service.” Registration can be completed online.

Burmese Pythons are classified as “a threat to native wildlife” by FWC.

The wildlife management agency said “Pythons can be humanely killed on private lands at any time with landowner permission – no permit required- and the FWC encourages people to remove and kill pythons from private lands whenever possible. Pythons may also be killed at any time throughout the year from 25 Wildlife Management Areas, Public Small Game Hunting Areas and Wildlife and Environmental Areas where pythons are known to exist. There is no bag limit and pythons may be humanely killed by any means other than traps or firearms.”

DeSantis said the state was excited to launch the challenge, thanked the FWC and Southern Water Management District, who were hosting the challenge, then introduced some of the other speakers to talk about the event and Florida’s environmental protection efforts.

“The Burmese python is a large nonvenomous constrictor that is an invasive species in Florida. Burmese pythons are found primarily in and around the Everglades ecosystem in south Florida where the snake represents a threat to native wildlife,” according to FWC.

At the event, officials gave a demonstration of how to wrangle a python for the challenge.

During a question and answer session, DeSantis said the state was fully recommending “against doing COVID vax for young kids, particularly for these 6-month-olds, 2-year-olds, little kids. The trial data on that is abysmal, I encourage people to look at it, it should not have gotten emergency use” authorization.

He said those groups of people were “at practically zero risk with anything COVID,” and to give them the mRNA vaccines on an emergency use basis had “risk without the benefits.”

While the governor said it was ultimately up to the parents, and that the state was recommending against it, the state was not banning the practice, if parents chose to vaccinate their children.

“The risk outweighs the benefits, that’s why we’re recommending against. But that’s not the same as banning it,” DeSantis said. “People can access it if they want to, and parents can do. But if you look at when they were doing the hearing, you had one physician say that parents are really really frightened.”

DeSantis said parents who were frightened by COVID were scared due to media “hysteria” during coverage of the pandemic.

“It’s because of misinformation, that’s why they’re scared,” DeSantis said. “But to do an emergency use for a 6-month-old or a 1-year-old simply to placate anxiety, that’s not the standard when you’re doing this. The standard is if something is safe and effective, and very importantly for recommendations, does the benefit outweigh the risk?”

He said the state of Florida has had the recommendation for five and up “for a while, we were the first state to do that,” but that the state recommendation against vaccines for those younger than five would hold.

Afterward, DeSantis provided comment rehashing statements made yesterday during the Florida State Guard event at the American Legion about the program and discussed purpose of the guard and the training process, then repeated statements and sentiments regarding what he called bad policies in Washington, and concerns over the economy and gas prices.

“I think there have been a series of policy misjudgments. What I would do, what I would say, and he will not do this. He should admit he was wrong,” DeSantis said about President Joe Biden. “And he said, you know what, we need to be energy independent, we need to lead the world in production, we need to get rid of all of the roadblocks, we need to make sure people can get permits,” and said the U.S. should work on building oil pipelines, noting passage of ANWAR while DeSantis was in U.S. Congress.

DeSantis said the government should start putting the people first, over the “ideologies of the ruling class and governing elite.” He said windmills and solar for energy production “were not enough” and that the U.S. still needs oil and gasoline.