Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior Jim Tate told Congress today
the administration is taking a number of steps in partnership with state
and local governments to control the spread of salt cedar, Russian olive
and other invasive plants that cause economic harm to communities, soak
up valuable water, and increase fire hazards in much of the West.
"Because of our role in the management of Western lands, we recognize
the need for on-the-ground management of invasive species," Tate
told the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health at a hearing
Tate outlined the problems caused by invasive plants. For example, dense
tamarisk stands consume large amounts of water. Estimates of the value
of water lost - for irrigation and municipal uses, flood control, and
hydropower production - run between $133 million and $265 million, he
said. Irrigation losses alone are as much as $120 million annually.
Various Interior Department agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service,
the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National
Park Service are working with states and other partners to control these
"Our initiative recognizes that nature knows no jurisdictional
boundaries and that, through partnerships, the Department's land managers
can work with landowners and other citizen stewards to tackle invasive
species, reduce erosion along stream banks, or enhance habitat for threatened
and endangered species," Tate told the subcommittee.
For example, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service
have formed "strike teams" that remove dense vegetation in
the Southwest. "Partners for Fish and Wildlife", a program
under the Fish and Wildlife Service, provides funding and technical
help to landowners to combat invasive species and improve wildlife habitat.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management's "Partners Against Weeds
Strategy Plan" funds cooperative efforts with landowners to control
invasive species. It also funds cooperative outreach and education programs
with schools and local and county governments. In one important project,
the BLM plans to work with several groups, including Clark County and
the communities of Bunkerville and Mesquite in southern Nevada to remove
tamarisk along portions of the Virgin River floodplain.
"The Department is prepared and committed to identifying, assessing,
and acting to curb the economic and ecological impacts" of invasive
species, Tate said.