Department of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Joan Moody
For Immediate Release: April 29, 2003



WASHINGTON -- Dr. Jim Tate, Science Advisor to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, today told House Resources Committee members that the massive battle against invasive species calls for a first-of-its-kind crosscutting interagency federal budget and new partnerships at the state, local, and tribal levels.

“Invasive plants alone are estimated to cause more than $20 billion per year in economic damage. Invasive animals and pathogens push the total cost to the U.S. economy to more than $100 billion each year,” Tate told two House Resources Committee subcommittees--Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife & Oceans and National Parks, Recreation & Public Lands. But this is only the published estimate of the cost of invasive species on the U.S. economy. The cost to the world economy of this global problem may be many times greater.

Seven bills pending before the House Resources Committee propose various ways of combatting invasive species in general or in particular. Among them are proposals to implement cooperative weed management; to improve control of aquatic nuisance species at national and local levels; and to establish in law the National Invasive Species Council. Co-chaired by the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Interior, the council coordinates federal invasive species programs and works closely with state and local governments and private organizations.

Tate called for support of the President’s crosscutting budget proposal on invasive species, which provides performance-based budget measures. In an effort to boost interagency coordination for some 23 federal agencies that have invasive species programs, the National Invasive Species Council prepared this crosscutting budget proposal for FY 2004 for selected aspects of invasive species prevention, early detection and rapid response, and control and management.

The interagency proposal focuses on seven areas for collaboration. The crosscutting budget proposes $250 million for the selected programs. Highlights under the proposed interagency performance budget include:
* Improvement of ship ballast water management and research to control the most important aquatic pathway for invasive species (NOAA, EPA, U.S. Coast Guard)
* Setting up a nationwide all-taxa early detection monitoring system, initially focusing on animal and plant pests and diseases. (USGS, ARS, CSREES)
* Setting up an early detection network for the fungus that causes Sudden Oak Death in the Southern Appalachian region (USGS, ARS, CSREES)
* Setting up an early detection network for marine invasive species in Hawaii, where there is a high incidence of disease and marine and terrestrial species that are a threat to endemic island species. (NOAA, DOI/OIA, APHIS)
* Controlling two serious plant pests in the Southwest – Giant Salvinia and the tamarisk– in cooperation with state, tribal and private landowners (BOR, BLM, USGS, FWS, BIA, NPS, FS, ARS, CSREES, APHIS, and NRCS)
* Preventing the movement of Asian Carp between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FWS); and
* Cooperation with states and private landowners to control nutria on more than 80,000 acres of wetlands in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay region and Louisiana (DOI and USDA).

Dr. Tate emphasized that the President’s budget request also calls for new partnerships at state, tribal, and local levels to combine scientific research on invasive species and to utilize volunteers on public and neighboring private lands, under the Cooperative Conservation Initiative. Tate said that much is still unknown about invasive species and more research is needed. A number of poorly understood factors increase damage from species out of place.

For example, the spread of tamarisk (saltcedar) in the U.S. Southwest may involve hybridization of two historically distinct species from Eurasia that met for the first time in the New World. He cited recent studies by USDA and Washington University in St. Louis that suggest hybridization is a possible cause for tamarisk’s invasive onslaught in the Southwest.

In addition to damage to the economy, our nation is losing precious habitat for native plants and animals and suffering mounting natural resource productivity losses to the encroachment of invasive plants and animals, Tate noted. As an estimate of ecological harm, up to 46 percent of threatened and endangered species owe their listing in whole or in part to the uncontrolled spread of invasive species. In fact, invasive species threaten many fish and wildlife populations, and have the potential to degrade entire plant and animal communities.



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