Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment
by A. Gordon Brown
National Invasive Species Council
Issue Paper on Invasive Species
to an Accelerating National Problem
A. Gordon Brown
National Invasive Species Council
Invasive species are non-native (or alien) species that become established where they did not previously occur and cause harm to the environment, the economy and in some cases human health. In 1999, the President issued Executive Order 13112 (EO) establishing the National Invasive Species Council (Council), which is co-chaired by the Secretaries of the departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce. The Council established the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC), a non-federal group of experts and stakeholders that provides advice and stakeholder input to the Council. The EO responded to an urgent national problem illustrated in part by the following:
Not all non-native species are harmful. For example, most food crops and many of our farm animals are non-native species and their beneficial value is obvious. Livestock and other organisms which are actively managed are not considered "invasive". Many others are simply benign; but a few cause serious and sometimes irreversible harm when they persist and spread beyond manageable boundaries. The EO and plans for action are focused on these invasive species, and on the hundreds of species that are introduced every year.
Increased global trade has resulted in greater movement of invasive species from one part of the world to another. Greater commerce within the US not only moves foreign species into the US, but also moves species native to one part of the US to other regions where they are non-native. Well- known examples of species that are alien to all or some of the US include garlic mustard, leafy spurge, Eurasian thistles, citrus canker, Asian longhorn beetle, rusty crayfish, zebra mussel, sea lamprey, Formosan termite, purple loosestrife, nutria, Dutch elm disease, Chestnut blight, dogwood anthracnose, balsam wooly adelgid, melaleuca, salt cedar, Africanized honey bees, and the marine killer algae Caulerpa. In addition, US export trade can lead to invasive species problems in other nations.
Pathways by which alien species are transported to the US from other countries and are transported within the US include the following:
This represents only some of the known means by which invasive species arrive in the US or travel from the US to other nations.
Congress recently passed the Plant Protection Act, clarifying authorities to deal with invasive species that affect plants. Members of both the House and the Senate have also written letters in support of increased funding to address invasive species problems. In addition, on October 2, 2000, the Council made available for public comment a draft first edition of the National Invasive Species Management Plan. It focuses on increasing efforts in the following urgent priority areas:
These proposed initiatives will require a combination of more effective cooperation among federal agencies and cooperation among federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector. In some cases proposed actions will require new legislation or additional funding and resources.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY of the Draft Invasive Species Management Plan
Whether or not we realize it, invasive species affect each of our lives. They transform our ecosystems, damage our crops, destroy wetlands, alter natural habitats, and threaten native species. With the explosion of world travel and global trade, this silent invasion and the cost to society is growing at an unprecedented rate.
Invasive species have been arriving in the United States for a long time some came planned for release or escaped from captivity, and others came as hitchhikers on commodities like produce, nursery stock, and livestock. Many arrived as silent stowaways aboard ships, aircraft, and other means of transport.
Most of our food crops and many of our farm animals are non-native species and their beneficial value is obvious. Livestock and other organisms which are actively managed are not considered "invasive". Many others are simply benign; but a few cause serious and sometimes irreversible harm when they persist and spread beyond manageable boundaries. Environmental and economic damage often go together. Fire ants and gypsy moths, for example, cause harm on many fronts. Zebra mussels invaded the Great Lakes through freighters ballast water and are clogging water intake systems. The Formosan termite costs an estimated $300 million in damage annually to New Orleans alone (Bordes 2000). The Asian long-horned beetle, which probably arrived in wood pallets made in China, literally eats trees to death. Purple loosestrife, with its beautiful purple flowers, destroys waterfowl habitats, alters their structure and function, and chokes out native plants and animals. Scientists estimate that up to 46% of the placement of plants and animals on the endangered species list can be attributed at least in part to invasive species (Wilcove et al. 1998). Citrus canker, a serious plant disease, has been contained by an aggressive prevention and management program, but has been reintroduced periodically. Because of a new outbreak, Florida is currently removing and burning infected trees at a cost that will exceed $200 million for the eradication program. The nutria, a large rodent native to South America, was originally imported as a resident of a private zoo. It now exists in the wild and is devastating entire ecosystems.
Invasive species do not recognize jurisdictional boundaries. As the current trend of growth in world markets continues, an unfortunate side effect is the increased potential for the movement of invasive species. In February 1999, the President responded to these problems, issuing Executive Order 13112 on Invasive Species (Order). The Order established the National Invasive Species Council (Council), chaired by the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce and the Interior; and includes the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Order also directs the Council to appoint a non-Federal Advisory Committee to assist the Council in its work.
The Order directs the Council, specifically its eight department members, to provide national leadership on invasive species, to see that their Federal efforts are coordinated and effective, and in general to oversee implementation of the Order within their Departments. In addition, the Council has other specific responsibilities, including promoting action at local, State, tribal and ecosystem levels, identifying recommendations for international cooperation; facilitating a coordinated network to document and monitor invasive species effects; developing a web-based information network on invasive species; developing guidance on invasive species for Federal agencies to use in implementing the National Environmental Policy Act; and preparing this document the National Invasive Species Management Plan.
Invasions occur in diverse and dynamic landscapes. Many of the most effective measures to combat invasive species occur at the local, State and regional levels, often in partnership with Federal agencies. The Council has a responsibility to support non-Federal efforts and encourage planning and action at these levels to address invasive species problems.
We must employ diverse approaches, conduct experiments and monitor the results, and adapt management decisions that reflect the best available scientific information. This Management Plan presents areas that the Council considers high priorities in addressing invasive species problems and recommends the following actions:
Leadership and Coordination: More than 20 Federal agencies now share responsibility and authority over some facet of invasive species management, along with various agencies of all 50 states and territories. Coordination problems impede effective prevention, control and management programs among the Federal agencies and their State and local partners.
Response: The Council will establish an oversight policy to ensure that the Order is effectively implemented and that procedures are in place to resolve jurisdictional and other disputes regarding invasive species issues. The goal will be to resolve disputes at the least formal level possible in an unbiased manner involving only those parties with an interest in the dispute and utilizing unbiased third party mediators if appropriate. The Council will also coordinate a cross-cut budget initiative for invasive species involving all Council Departments, and highlight the needs assessed by Federal agencies to address invasive species.
Prevention: The first line of defense for invasive species is prevention. The most cost-effective approach to combating invasive species is to keep them from becoming established in the first place.
Response: In conjunction with industry, interested parties and members of the public, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency (building on existing regulatory structures, including databases, programs, facilities, and policies) will develop and test a risk assessment screening system for evaluating intentionally introduced invasive species and reducing the risk that they will become established in the United States. In addition, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency will identify the pathways by which invasive species move, rank them according to potential for ecological and economical impacts, and develop mechanisms to reduce movement of invasive species.
Early Detection and Rapid Response: When prevention fails, invasive species must be detected and dealt with before they become established and spread. Resources for early detection and rapid response have not kept pace with the increasing number of invasive species arriving in this country.
Response: The Council will act to speed detection of invasive species and will seek a flexible funding source and legislative authority for multi-year, interagency spending to cover costs incurred in responding to invasions.
Control and Management: Reducing established invasive species populations and limiting their spread can dramatically decrease the associated economic and ecological impacts they cause. Improved Federal land stewardship can provide a model for controlling the spread of invasive species to neighboring lands and waters. However, State and privately-owned lands comprise most of the United States, and successful control strategies will require additional personnel and financial resources for Federal, State, and local partnerships.
Response: Council members will seek additional resources to significantly enhance control and management of invasive species, especially on Federal lands. The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior will propose legislation to assist States in managing invasive species and provide incentives for voluntary actions by private landowners, and will work with States, and other stakeholder groups to determine control priorities.
Restoration: Restoring native plant communities can reduce the risk of future invasions in areas where control actions have reduced or eliminated invasive species.
Response: The Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will develop guidelines for restoration following invasive species control actions, identify sources of propagation material for native species, and propose legislation to provide incentives for private restoration efforts.
International Cooperation: Invasive species are a global problem. Efforts to prevent the establishment of invasive species in the U.S. will be aided by cooperative international efforts to gain greater understanding of invasive species pathways and vectors. Management of these pathways to minimize the spread of invasive species will certainly require international cooperation. Furthermore, all nations benefit when species of global concern are identified and addressed through shared information, management policies, and other inter-governmental cooperative efforts.
Response: The Council will make recommendations on the development of mutually supportive standards and codes of conduct to address invasive species issues within existing international agreements and programs, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). The Council will also collaborate with other governments and organizations to raise global awareness of the invasive species issue and to share information and technical expertise. Finally, the Council will continue to support the ongoing work of the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) and its associated voluntary Intergovernmental Invasive Species Initiative (IISI).
Research: In order for any invasive species program to be successful, it must be based on sound science. Both basic and applied research are needed to strengthen prevention and control efforts. Furthermore, existing scientific information must be managed efficiently with particular emphasis on mapping
Response: The Council will propose additional research funding for invasive species, including a competitive grants program and long-term funding for core continuing research topics. The Council will promote research partnerships involving public and private universities, Federal and State government agencies, and the private sector. The Council will consult with the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in identifying research priorities throughout the Government. The Council will also seek advice from organizations such as the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force and the Smithsonian Institution in identifying fundamental and applied research needs.
Information Management: The fact that there is a wealth of information about invasive species is encouraging. Improved decision making will rely upon shared information and mapping capabilities. New technologies for linking databases are expected to reduce costs and increase effectiveness.
Response: The Council will maintain and enhance a website, www.invasivespecies.gov, thus providing a gateway to Federal and other information on invasive species with the eventual goal of providing accessible, up-to-date, and comprehensive information on invasive species that will be useful to managers, scientists, policy makers, and the general public.
Education and Public Awareness: Although most people are aware of one or more invasive species, the scope of the problem is not widely recognized by the general public. Strategies to reduce the impacts of invasive species must communicate the relationship between how we allow invaders to enter the U.S. and spread, and how that affects our quality of life. One of the most effective ways to address invasive species issues is to inform people how to avoid contributing to the problem and how they can help reduce threats posed by invasive species.
Response: The Council will develop a National Invasive Species Awareness Campaign in cooperation with States, tribes, local governments and civic organizations and industry.
This plan reflects the widespread view that a well-coordinated Federal effort, working with the States, affected parties, and international partners, can improve the extensive but fragmented approach to addressing invasive species that exists currently. This plan is a blueprint for coordinated Federal action. The key, however, is how well and expeditiously the plan can be implemented. The list of actions presented is only a start. The Plan is meant to be a living document that will be revised and improved over time through public involvement, partnerships, and careful monitoring of progress.
The Plan is available on line at www.invasivespecies.gov or by calling 202/208-6336 to request a hard copy.
For more information, contact:
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