Department Of Interior

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USDA: Julie Quick, 202-720-4623
For Immediate Release: January 22, 2004
DOI: Frank Quimby, 202-208-7291

Norton, Veneman Launch Cooperative Initiative to Control Invasive Tamarisk in Southwest


(DENVER) -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today announced plans to work with Southwestern states and communities on a strategic initiative to control tamarisk, an invasive plant that has infested millions of acres in the region, damaging wildlife habitat, complicating water management, and causing severe ecological and economic problems. The two cabinet officials jointly chair the National Invasive Species Council with Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans.

The effort will formally begin with a three-day conference, March 31 to April 2 in Albuquerque, N.M., that will bring together federal, state and local government officials, tribal representatives, private water and land managers, and plant and water scientists to identify collaborative opportunities that make the most effective use of collective resources. Rebecca Watson, Interior's Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, will be a keynote speaker at the conference.

"There is a need for a strategic regional approach to tamarisk eradication and control that organizes all levels of government, academia, and the private sector under a coordinated, partnership-based, outcome-oriented framework," Norton said in announcing the initiative. "No single state or federal agency can effectively tackle this problem alone. We all need to work together as partners."

"Invasive plants like the tamarisk cause both ecological and economic harm," Veneman said. "Efforts to control them are crucial to help restore wildlife habitat and ensure our rural communities can maintain critical water supplies."
Tamarisk, also known as saltcedar, is a small, drought-resistant tree that infests more than 1.6 million acres of western stream banks, springs and wetlands. This invasive, which has crowded out native cottonwoods and willows, dominates many riparian habitats, significantly damaging wildlife habitat and complicating water management for municipalities, irrigation districts, and hydropower plants. The infestation costs the region hundreds of millions of dollars annually in economic activity.

While many land management agencies have worked diligently to eradicate tamarisk and establish native plant communities to prevent its reintroduction, most of these efforts are carried out on the local level, are often constrained by political boundaries, conflicting missions, and authorities, and lack effective coordination with other tamarisk control projects in the Southwest.
"Tamarisk is not confined by geographic or administrative boundaries," Norton noted. "We need to identify greater opportunities to collaborate on tamarisk control across the landscape."

The Albuquerque conference will focus on problems associated with tamarisk and native habitat management; provide a comprehensive overview of current control efforts and available best practices; highlight critical research gaps; map the best current understanding of the regional distribution of tamarisk; and set priorities for control projects in the Southwest. The tamarisk initiative will map subsequent efforts to deal strategically with this invasive across the region.
The goal of the initiative is to establish a framework for forging close, working partnerships that will lead to on-the-ground projects that make the most efficient and effective uses of the resources of federal, state and local governments. The framework can help managers identify and select projects, determine the range of tools for specific situations, and select best practices for prioritizing cooperative opportunities.

The conference is sponsored by the National Invasive Species Council, National Association of Counties, Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory (both are Department of Energy labs), WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development, and the Tamarisk Coalition, among others.

The National Invasive Species Council is a Cabinet-level group that helps to coordinate and ensure complementary, cost-efficient and effective federal activities regarding invasive species. Invasive plants 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.

Invasives also harm the environment and wildlife. Up to 46 percent of threatened and endangered species owe their listing in whole or in part to the uncontrolled spread of invasives, which have the potential to degrade entire plant and animal communities.

Interior agencies participating in the conference include the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. USDA participants include the Forest Service, Agricultural Research Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. Other federal agencies involved are the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

More information is available at and at



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