Invasive Species Management on Federal Lands



Statement for the Record

U.S. Department of the Interior

Before the

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on

Public Lands and Environmental Regulation's oversight hearing on

"Invasive Species Management on Federal Lands"

Introduction

The Department of the Interior (Department) appreciates this opportunity to submit a Statement for the Record for the oversight hearing on invasive species management on federal lands.

The Department has been actively engaged in managing invasive species for more than 30 years.Through effective coordination, the Department is utilizing limited resources, leveraging funding, and working in strategic partnerships to maximize the protection and stewardship of America's public lands.Addressing invasive species is a high priority for the Department.In the President's FY 2014 Budget, the Department requested an overall increase of about $23 million for invasive species prevention, management, control and coordination. Our collaborative efforts, partnerships and investments support President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative aimed at ensuring that current and future generations have the opportunity to enjoy safe and healthy outdoor spaces.

The environmental, economic, and social impacts of invasive species and their control or eradication can be costly, controversial, and complex.Prevention of their introduction, establishment, and spread is the most cost effective and least disruptive approach to managing the threats these species pose to the nation's public trust resources.

Background

Next to habitat loss, invasive species pose the greatest threat to the nation's biodiversity and natural resources.[1] Invasive species are defined in Executive Order 13112 (Invasive Species, signed in February of 1999) as: an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.Although difficult to measure precisely, the overall economic impacts of invasive species in the United States were estimated to be well into the tens of billions of dollars annually.[2] Just sixteen invasive plant species alone currently infest over 126 million acres in the 48 contiguous states.[3]These unwanted species impact the Department's mission and purposes for which we manage public lands and their resources in myriad ways, including the services these lands offer, such as recreation, hydropower, water supplies, agriculture, and ranching.They also impact ecosystem functions including pollination, water filtration, climate stability, pest control, and erosion protection, wildfires, and other natural hazards.[4]

Invasive species are costly to control, and in some cases they cannot be controlled once widely established.Widespread invasive species necessitate increased use of chemical, mechanical, and other controls which may also have environmental impacts that undermine the health of public trust resources. Preventing the introduction, establishment, and spread of invasive species is the best strategy. There is broad agreement among scientists and natural resource managers that invasive species Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) is essential to natural resource protection and sustainability. When invasive species are established and eradication is not feasible, control and management efforts are focused on minimizing the harm these species cause to public trust resources. The Department uses the best available scientific information to monitor and map target populations to implement a range of complementary and environmentally effective technologies and methods to prevent and manage invasive species.

Every bureau within the Department has a responsibility for managing invasive species. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of Insular Affairs support tribal and U.S. territorial government efforts to control invasive species.The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Park Service (NPS) have programs focused on management of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species that infest water systems and lands they manage.DOI Bureaus also partner with States, tribes and the private sector to support efforts to prevent and control invasive species. The FWS enforces laws and regulations concerning the importation of injurious wildlife species.The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducts and supports research to assist resource managers in the control of invasive species and restoration of impacted areas; the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) support research regarding invasive species on offshore oil and gas structures.

To manage invasive species impacts on the public trust resources under its purview, the Department has forged strong partnerships with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies.The Department addresses a wide variety of invasive species through prevention, EDRR, control and management, restoration, research, and education and public awareness.This has resulted in tangible improvements in water quality, species recovery, habitat restoration, and overall invasive species management in ecosystems.

Cooperative Invasive Species Control and Management

With limited resources, it is critically important that invasive species prevention and control efforts be coordinated and prioritized.To address the scope and complexity of interdepartmental coordination needs, Executive Order 13112 (Order) was issued, establishing the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) to provide coordination, planning and leadership for federal invasive species programs.NISC is co-chaired by the Secretaries of the Interior, Commerce and Agriculture and includes 10 other departments and agencies. NISC staff members are housed within the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, which also houses the Department's invasive species coordinator.  The Invasive Species Advisory Committee, which provides advice and recommendations to NISC, comprises 30 individuals representing a broad range of nonfederal stakeholders including scientific, conservation, and agricultural groups; state governments; and industry organizations that are impacted by invasive species.

As required by the Order, the Department maintains an invasive species coordinator, who works with its Bureaus to coordinate Department-wide invasive species efforts.Through the Non-Indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 (as amended by the National Invasive Species Act of 1996), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service co-chairs and maintains the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANSTF), which is co-chaired by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and comprises federal and state agency representatives.The Department also is a member agency of the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds, established through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by agency leadership in August 1994.

The rapid encroachment of invasive species continues to pose a serious threat to the health, diversity, and productivity of the BLM-managed rangelands, forests, and riparian areas. The BLM's Weed Management and Invasive Species Program helps contain invasive species by working with an array of Federal, state, tribal and local partners on early detection and rapid response initiatives that reduce the need for larger, more expensive treatments.With a focus on eliminating any advances by invasive and noxious weeds, BLM invasive species projects continue to contribute toward landscape level initiatives, including habitat improvements in priority designated Sage-Grouse areas.

To combat invasive species, the BLM draws on the knowledge and experience of staff from its Rangeland Management; Forestry; Hazardous Fuels Reduction; Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation; Soil, Water and Air; and Riparian programs. The BLM leverages internal efforts by collaborating with partner organizations such as the Partners Against Weeds Action Plan, Pulling Together, National Strategy for Invasive Plant Management, ANSTF and their Western Regional Panel, and the National Invasive Species Management Plan.These groups assist in education, prevention, inventory, and monitoring efforts while using an Integrated Pest Management approach to control and restore areas impacted by weeds and invasive species.The BLM is currently a partner in nearly 70 Coordinated Weed Management and Invasive Species Management Areas across the West. The Weed Management and Invasive Species Program is also supported by Congressional mandates for specific initiatives such as salt cedar control; Departmental invasive programs such as the Northern Great Plains and the Rio Grande Basin Initiatives; and BLM initiatives such as Healthy Landscapes.

The strength of these partnerships has multiplied the BLM's capacity to control invasive species, as evidenced, by the success of the BLM's Restore New Mexico project.Since initiating the project in 2005, BLM-New Mexico and its partners have successfully treated nearly 2 million acres, effectively starting the landscape's transition back to healthy, sustainable habitats.

One of BLM's greatest efforts focuses on combating invasive species in fire prone areas to ensure that recently burned lands are restored with native species.In response to wildland fires during the 2012 fire season, which burned 3.3 million BLM-managed acres, the agency seeded approximately 400,000 acres with native grasses.

The BLM expects to complete a combination of weed and invasive species inventory, treatments and restoration, and monitoring that include fuels reductions, emergency fire stabilization, and coordinated weed treatments with private, state and county cooperators.

National Park Service

Invasive species are transformative to native ecosystems, ecological processes, and visitor experiences and hinder NPS's attempts to meet its goals of preserving native species and processes.For this reason, the NPS is working to manage invasive species in parks through a suite of national and local programs that employ the following strategies: cooperation and collaboration, inventory and monitoring, prevention, early detection and rapid response, treatment and control, and restoration.  At the national level, NPS has established 16 Exotic Plant Management Teams, which provide highly trained mobile assistance in invasive plant management to parks throughout the National Park System.  Invasive animals are managed on a park by park basis in cooperation with our partners, and almost all parks have incorporated invasive species management into long range planning goals for natural and cultural landscapes, as well as day to day operations.For example, Lake Mead, Glen Canyon, and Curecanti National Recreation Areas (NRA) have implemented boat inspection, cleaning, education, and monitoring programs to prevent and control the spread of quagga and zebra mussels in the lower Colorado River basin. Lake Mead NRA requires the inspection and cleaning of all slipped and moored boats that are leaving the park.To date, it is the only facility with such a requirement in place.Early detection monitoring at Glen Canyon NRA identified quagga mussels in that park in 2013 and resulted in intensified control efforts including physical removal of the mussels and cooperation with adjacent states. Through partnerships with other federal, state, and local agencies and NGOs, NPS is also working to increase public awareness of aquatic invasive species movement, specifically quagga and zebra mussels by recreational boats.

NPS is developing the science necessary to respond to invasive species outbreaks.For example, in partnership with the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center, Saguaro National Park staff evaluated the behavior and effects of test burns of bufflegrass stands to better understand response needs in urban environments. In a separate study, NPS staff worked with academic partners to understand the effects of bufflegrass establishment on soil conditions and native species seed banks to develop effective post-bufflegrass control strategies. NPS also uses monitoring to understand the effects of its invasive plant treatments.

NPS staff is currently reviewinginvasive plant treatment effectiveness in 33 parks addressing 156 exotic plant species.Preliminary results suggest that: (1) a range of exotic species spanning annual forbs to trees have been effectively treated; (2) developing effective treatments often required extensive experimentation and balancing non-target effects; and (3) presence of multiple exotic species complicated treatment efforts, highlighting importance of preventing invasions. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service addresses invasive species issues through statutory authorities including the Lacey Act and the Non-Indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act, and on National Wildlife Refuges through a variety of programs and partnerships. The Service's Branch of Invasive Species (BAIS) leads the Service's Aquatic Nuisance Species Program. The BAIS also conducts the regulatory activities necessary to list organisms as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act.The Service's National Wildlife Refuge System addresses invasive species issues on its 545 Refuges, encompassing approximately 96 million acres of wildlife habitat.Several Service programs are involved in the Habitat Restoration of degraded wildlife habitats included those impacted by invasive species. The Division of Environmental Quality addresses invasive species issues through its work on Integrated Pest Management, its work to promote the use of native plants as part of its efforts to protect pollinators, and its work on biocontrol.As an example of the critical work of these programs, the Service is responsible for coordinating the control of sea lamprey in the Great Lakes, and the agency serves on the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, providing resources and technical assistance to the Great Lakes states to monitor for the presence of Asian carp and to prepare EDRR processes.Finally, the Service's Office of Law Enforcement, employing wildlife inspectors at 32 major U.S. airports, ocean ports, and border crossings, seeks to prevent the introduction of species listed as injurious wildlife through its wildlife inspection program.

Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Geological Survey

The Bureau of Reclamation has developed partnerships and continues to work with other agencies, associations, NGOs, states and tribes addressing aquatic nuisance species.For example, BOR is working with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife for fish rinsing, and fish egg treatments to help prevent transport of quagga mussels during fish hauling.In addition, BOR participates through the 100th Meridian, Columbia River Basin Team, other Teams, the ANSTF, the Western Regional Panel, and other organizations.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey are conducting research on invasive plants and animals to provide critical information to develop effective management and control options.  For Asian carp, USGS researchers are working closely with private industry to developchemical formulations for new control methods that can target specific aquatic invasive species.

Formulations to control Asian carp and dreissenids (zebra and quagga mussels) are now being field tested. Additionally, USGS is researching use of seismic technology to contain Asian carp; determining the potential use of pheromones or food cues to herd Asian carp; and developing and improving existing molecular tools to detect Asian carp in areas of low abundance.USGS scientists are also conducting research on other high priority invasive species such as cheatgrass, buffelgrass, Tamarisk, feral pigs and Burmese pythons. USGS research on invasive species life history and environmental requirements, factors influencing species invasiveness, interactions of fire regimes, and research on efficacy of invasive plant treatment regimes all contribute to effective detection, control, and management on federal lands. 

Conclusion

The strong partnerships the Department has forged with local, state, tribal and our sister federal agencies to protect natural resources andachieve invasive species management goals has resulted in tangible improvements in water quality, species recovery, habitat restoration, and overall invasive species management in ecosystems. The Department of the Interior stands ready to work with the Subcommittee toward this end, and to continue to improve our prevention and control of invasive species.

 

[1] Wilson, E.O. (1997) "Strangers in Paradise:Impact and Management of Nonindigenous Species in Florida". Island Press.

[2] David Pimentel, Rodolfo Zuniga, and Doug Morrison. 2005. Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States Ecological Economics. 52:273-88

[3] C. Duncan and J. J. Jachetta. 2005. Introduction. Pages 1-8. In. Duncan. C.A. and J. K. Clark. Invasive Plants of Range and Wildlands and Their Environmental, Economic, and Societal Impacts. Weed Science Society of America. Lawrence, KS

[4] U.S. Department of the Interior (2011). "The Department of the Interior's Economic Contributions".Report published at:www.doi.gov/ppa/upload/DOI-ECON-Report-6-21-2011.pdf