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Harmful Non-Native Species: Issues for Congress

M. Lynne Corn, Eugene H. Buck,
Jean Rawson, and Eric Fischer

Resources, Science, and Industry Division

April 8, 1999

RL30123

ABSTRACT

Whose responsibility is it to ensure the economic and ecological integrity of the nation in response to multi-billion dollar threats posed by harmful nonnative species? As the speed and level of trade and travel increase, the chance of introducing unwelcome species such as zebra mussels, melaleuca, fire ants, or Formosan termites increases, but federal activities in this area remain unfocused. The specific issue before Congress is whether new legislative authorities are needed to address issues of non-native species and their increasing economic and ecological impacts. This report highlights the choice between single species approaches and pathway approaches for prevention, and between prevention vs. control. It describes existing federal laws and federal agency roles, and outlines effects, costs, and issues surrounding 31 selected harmful non-native species.

 

Summary

For the first few centuries after the arrival of Europeans in North America, plants and animals of many species were sent between the two land masses. The transfer of non-natives consisted not only of intentional westbound pigs and eastbound tomatoes, but also westbound dandelions and eastbound gray squirrels. And for those centuries the unwelcome and often uninvited fraction of the non-natives were ignored, if they were noticed at all. National focus on non-native species arose only with the arrival of a few species, primarily harming agriculture, the leading industry of the time. A few newly-arrived non-natives, and new estimates of adverse economic impacts exceeding $100 billion annually, have sharpened that focus.

Very broadly, the unanswered question regarding non-native species is whose responsibility is it to ensure the economic and ecological integrity of the nation in response to the actual or potential benefits or threats of non-native species? As this report shows, the current answers are far from simple, may be "no one," and depend on whether the introduction is deliberate or accidental, whether it affects agriculture, whether it arrives by one pathway or another, and whether the threat is from a pest whose harmful potential is already known. And if the harmful non-native species is already established in one area of the country, still other answers are likely.

The specific issue before Congress is whether new legislative authorities are needed to address issues of non-native species, and their increasing economic and ecological impacts. if such authorities are necessary, Congress will have to balance the needs of domestic and international trade, tourism, industries dependent on bringing non-natives in, those dependent on keeping them out, and finally, the variety of natural resources which have little direct economic value and yet affect the lives of the entire nation. if there is new legislation, should it address problems on a species by species basis, or should it try to regulate pathways of entry? Should it focus on prevention of entry or on post hoc control and intra-state quarantine? These are a few of the issues that could be debated.

In the century or so of congressional responses to harmful, non-native species, the usual approach has been an ad hoc attack on the particular problem, from impure seed stocks, to brown tree snakes on Guam. A few attempts have been made to address specific pathways (c.g., contaminated ballast water), but no current law addresses the general concern over non-native species and the variety of paths by which they enter this country. A recent Executive Order takes a step in bringing together some of the current authorities and resources to address a problem that has expanded with both increasing world trade and travel and decreasing transit time for humans and cargo. Bills have been introduced on this subject in the 105th and 106th Congresses.

This report highlights the choice between single species approaches and pathway approaches for prevention, and the role of prevention vs. control. It describes existing federal laws and federal agency roles, and outlines effects, costs, and issues surrounding 31 selected harm full non-native species.

Main Contents

Background and Current Status

The Size of the Threat
Dollar Impacts
Major Laws and Executive Order

Executive Order 13112

Pending Legislation

Threat of Harmful Non-Native Species

Numbers of Non-Native Species
History of Introductions
Geographic Origins of Non-Native Species
Pathways of Invasion
Basic Methods of Pest Prevention and Control

Baits and Attractants
Fumigants, Repellents, and Barriers for Confined Spaces
Traps
Poisons
Biological Controls
Bounties
Mechanical Removals

Unusually Susceptible Habitats
Available Estimates of Costs and Impacts
Industries That Benefit from Non-native Species
Harm to the Natural Environment: Diffuse Responsibilities

Laws ...

Lacey Act ...
Plant Quarantine Act
The Animal Damage Control Act
Federal Seed Act ...
The Organic Act of 1944 ...
Federal Plant Pest Act ...
National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (NEPA) . ...
Endangered Species Act (ESA) ...
Federal Noxious Weed Act ...
NANPCA/NISA ...
Alien Species Prevention and Enforcement Act of 1992 ...
Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 ...
Hawaii Tropical Forest Recovery Act of 1992 ...
Executive Order 13112

Agency Responsibilities:

Regulations and Implementation
Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)
Economic Research Service (ERS)
Farm Service Agency (FSA)
Forest Service (FS)

Department of Commerce

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
National Sea Grant College Program

Department of Defense

Army Corps of Engineers

Department of the Interior

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
Geological Survey (USGS)
National Park Service (NPS)
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM)

Department of State
Department of Transportation

Coast Guard
Federal Highway Administration

Independent Agencies

Council on Environmental Quality
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
National Science Foundation
Smithsonian Institution

Interagency Efforts

Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force
Federal Interagency Committee for Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds

International Efforts

Coverage of Laws or Policy: Actions and Approaches

Federal Agency Actions: A Patchwork
Approaches to Regulation: Species-by-Species
vs. Pathways

A Gallery of Harmful Non-native Plants and Animals

Microorganisms

Whirling Disease, Myxobolus cerobralis

Plants

Leaf Spurge, Euphorbia esula
Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria
Yellow Star Thistle, Centaurea solistialis
Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
Hydrilla, Hydrilla verticillata

Arthropods: Insects

Formosan Termite, Coptotermes formosanus
Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta
Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile
Africanized Honeybee, Apis mellifera scutellata
Asian Long-Horned Beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis
Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus

Other Arthropods

Honeybee Mites, Varroajacobsoni and Acarapis woodi
European Green Crab, Carcinus macnas
Chinese Mitten Crab, Eriocheir sinensis
Rusty Crayfish, Orconectes rusticus
Spiny Water Flea, Bythotrephes cederstroemi

Mollusks

Zebra Mussel, Dreissena polymorpha
Brown Mussel, Perna perna
Asian Clam, Corbicula fluminea
New Zealand Mud Snail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum

Vertebrates

Sea Lamprey, Petromyzon marinus
European Ruffe, Gymnocephalus cernuus
Walking Catfish, Clarias batrachus
Alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus
Round Goby, Neogobius melanostomus
Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio
Lake Trout,
Salvelinus namaycush
Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis
Indian Mongoose, Heipestes auropunctatus
Nutria, Myocastor coypus

List of Figures

What's In A Name?
U.S. As A Source of Non-Native Species

List of Tables

Table 1. Estimated Numbers of Non-Native Species in the United States

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