Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary Contact: Anna Cherry, (202) 354-1891
For Immediate Release: May 13, 2005 Frank Quimby, (202) 208-7291

National Council Promotes Strategies for War
on Invasive Plants, Animals, Pathogens

Secretary Norton Commends Council's Team Tamarisk Initiative

WASHINGTON - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today urged leaders of a cabinet-level council to increase their war-planning against an invasion of plant and animal species that costs the nation more than $120 billion annually in ecological and economic damage.

"No single agency, no one department can do it alone," Norton told senior officials from 13 federal agencies that have formed the National Invasive Species Council. "The potential invaders are many. Their potential impacts are vast. By working together we can continue to win the small victories that mean much in the larger war." Cross-agency cooperation has led to signal achievements in the war on invasive species, Norton noted at the council's eighth annual meeting. "But each of the initiatives we discuss today is designed to increase our cooperation and increase the effectiveness of our fight."

Aggressive invasive plants, including tamarisk and leafy spurge, are estimated to cause more than $20 billion per year in economic damage. Invasive animals, such as the brown tree snake and Asian carp, and pathogens and parasites, such as foot and mouth disease and West Nile Virus, push the cost to the U.S. economy to more than $120 billion a year. Invasives also are the second leading cause (after habitat loss) of species being listed as threatened or endangered.

Norton cited Team Tamarisk, a council initiative that recently marked its first anniversary, as a conservation partnership that produces on-the-ground results through exemplary communication, consultation and cooperation. The initiative works with state and local agencies to fight tamarisk (also know as saltcedar), a non-native tree infesting almost 2 million acres of river banks, springs and wetlands, costing the Southwest hundreds of millions of dollars a year in economic activity.

The Team tamarisk initiative brought together hundreds of scientists, policymakers and land and water managers from across the region who adopted a set of principles to guide a cooperative, strategic approach. The principles set priorities for saltcedar control and matched them with the most economical opportunities for restoring natural habitat.

With the help of U.S. Geological Survey scientists, Team Tamarisk developed an Internet-based Living Map that provides visual representation of the distribution and impacts of tamarisk. The map helps managers highlight areas where projects are underway, determine where partnerships may be possible, and track progress in tamarisk programs and the management of floodplain habitats.
(Click here for more information on Team Tamarisk.)

As part of its agenda today, the council adopted Guidelines for Setting Control Priorities to help land managers rank the priority of invasive species control projects. Resource managers are often faced with multiple invasive species across wide areas - plants, animals or microorganisms -- and they occur in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Managers need tools to help them set priorities.

"Determining what limited resources to apply to multiple problems is a complex and critical task," said Dr. James Tate, science advisor to Secretary Norton and the department's principle representative on the council. "These new guidelines will help strategic planning and will be revised as our knowledge of systems and species advance."

The council also discussed the Invasive Species Crosscut Budget and planning for fiscal year 2007. The council helped to develop the first performance-based interagency crosscut budget in FY2004 to coordinate federal resources, expand interagency cooperation and produce increased efficiency in delivering help.

"In FY05 Congress appropriated $1.19 billion governmentwide for programs to combat invasives," said Scott Cameron, Interior's deputy assistant secretary for Performance and Management. "The President's FY06 proposed budget includes $1.25 billion, a 5.9 percent increase in a tight budgetary environment." Under that proposal, restoration programs would receive a 43 percent increase and early detection and rapid response would be increased by 20 percent.

Related congressional legislation -- (S.177) reintroduced by Senator Pete Domenici and a companion bill (H.R.489) from Rep. Steve Pearce -- would provide about $100 million over five years for tamarisk projects and research.

The council also discussed procedures for re-drafting the National Invasive Species Management Plan, originally written in 2001, to provide a more flexible and adaptive overall strategy. The National Invasive Species Council is an interagency group that provides leadership to ensure complementary, cost-efficient and effective federal activities to combat invasive species. The council helps to coordinate and enhance the invasive species programs of 40 federal agencies, working with state and local governments and private groups on this critical economic, environmental and health issue.

Norton also welcomed the two newest members of the council, the U.S. Trade Representative, whose office can assist with controlling the flow of invasive species through international trade; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which brings expertise in satellite imagery of landscapes.

Council members include three co-chairs: the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce; and the Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury, Transportation, Health and Human Services, as well as the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, NASA and the U.S Trade Representative.

More information about the national Invasive Species Council is online at whatsnew.shtml and at Information on Team Tamarisk can be found at




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