Congress takes on invasive species

Reduce RIsks from Invasive Species Coalition

Reduce Risks from Invasive Species Coalition

On December 1, a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee held a hearing on the growing problems of invasive species. Our colleague Scott Cameron, who was heavily involved with this issue while a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Interior Department, was among those who testified.

Scott chairs the Reduce Risk from Invasive Species Coalition (RRISC).  RRISC, which welcomes corporate members, works with Federal and State officials on risks posed by invasive species and promotes cost-effective strategies to reduce those risks.

What follows are excerpts of Scott’s testimony:

Invasive species pose serious economic and environmental problems across the United States.  They have been estimated to cost the American economy $120 billion annually, and to have a $1.4 trillion annual impact on the global economy, according to the California Academy of Sciences.

There are also significant public health impacts from invasive species. West Nile virus and fire ants put many Americans in the hospital every year, and in some cases the patients don’t survive.

Invasive species have single-handedly caused 20% of all species extinctions since the 1600s according to The Economist magazine, and at least contributed to the extinction of half of all species that we have lost.  Indirectly, they cause increased regulatory burden on American society, since the US Fish and Wildlife Service reports they are in whole or in part responsible for more than 40% of the species listings under the Endangered Species Act.

People concerned about the loss of biodiversity in the United States should be concerned about invasive species, as should people frustrated by the regulatory burden imposed by the Endangered Species Act.

Specific Policy Recommendations

Congress should direct the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) to present the Congress with a short annual work plan with deadlines and intended outcomes of Council activities to focus political appointee and OMB attention on the Council’s work.

Most invasive species problems are regional in nature, can only be solved at the regional level, and so it is not surprising that Governors tend to be the elected officials who are the most consistently engaged in invasive species issues. NISC should therefore provide a forum for federal interagency communication and coordination with the regional governors associations to establish what the invasive species priorities of the governors might be on a regional basis, and what the federal government can do to support them from policy, budgetary, and research perspectives.

NISC should design a national network of regionally driven early detection and rapid response capabilities to deal with invasive species problems early, before they get out of hand. Those regional priorities should be based on the advice of the Governors of the states in the region.

Our colleague Scott Cameron testified on the growing problem of invasive species

Our colleague Scott Cameron testified on the growing problem of invasive species on December 1

NISC should provide a forum for federal agency Regional executives to more easily get the attention of both their Departmental political leadership and the Office of Management and Budget in order to ensure a balanced mutual policy commitment at agency headquarters to facilitate interagency cooperation on the ground.

NISC should provide a forum for ensuring and expediting interagency coordination at the headquarters level, so that time-sensitive decisions involving invasive species policy, regulatory approvals, or research are less likely to be caught up in bureaucratic red tape.  Examples include facilitating Endangered Species Act section 7 consultation between USDA and EPA on new pesticides targeting invasive species, working with the Council on Environmental Quality to streamline environmental compliance for agency on-the-ground invasive species control actions, and achieving a coordinated interagency biocontrol research agenda that would effectively leverage the relative scientific research strengths of EPA, USGS, USDA, and NSF.

NISC should seek out international best practices and evaluate the feasibility of adopting them in the United States.

One of the crucial capacities that is necessary in invasive species management is the ability to identify an unfamiliar organism when it is first encountered in a country where it has not been seen before. NISC should facilitate international communication among taxonomists, and encourage our own National Science Foundation to support a sufficient pipeline of new American taxonomists.

NISC has responsibility for periodically revising the National Invasive Species Management Plan.  It needs to be made available for public comment, not developed in a vacuum by the Council staff.  Given the critical role of state and local governments, private landowners, and non-profit volunteer organizations in all collectively dealing with invasive species, the plan would benefit greatly from their input.

To stream the hearing, click here.

Dawson & Associates is pleased to offer this blog as a forum for our colleagues to comment on timely issues. These commentaries reflect the diverse backgrounds and opinions of our team and do not necessarily reflect the views of our company or others affiliated with it.