Call To Action on Invasive Species

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Invasive species are a major threat to the environment and the economy of the United States. Yet, policies governing the introduction and spread of these species are woefully inadequate. To draw attention to the shortcomings in federal policy, the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS) issued a “Call To Action on Invasive Species.” The Call was signed by over 750 scientists and experts, including many of the leaders in the field; and over 100 citizens groups.

The Call To Action was released on December 18, 2003, marking the tenth anniversary of a major report on invasive species by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) of the U.S. Congress. The OTA report, “Harmful Non-Indigenous Species in the United States”, was the first comprehensive look at invasive species across taxonomic lines, economic sectors, and government jurisdictions. It detailed the numbers, economic costs, and environmental impact of invasive species. Also, it examined the federal and state policies that affect biological invasions and set forth a series of policy solutions to stem the introduction and spread of damaging organisms.

Since 1993, there have been a few key policy gains, but, overall, the nation’s approach to invasive species remains as OTA described it more than 10 years ago: a poor match for the problems at hand. To learn more about the problems posed by invasive species, or to read the Call To Action on Invasive Species, please see the links below.

The Call to Action
Ten years ago, the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress detailed the destruction caused by invasive species and recommended a number of solutions. Since then, the damage has become even starker. Invasive species threaten the productivity of the soils and waters upon which we—and our economies—depend. They endanger the conservation gains of the past century. And they imperil the native species that make this country unique. In sum, the devastation caused by non-native, invasive organisms is one of the most serious and least-recognized tragedies of our time.

Because the federal government regulates the movement of damaging organisms into the country and between U.S. states, solutions to this problem require strong federal action. Progress in the past ten years has been woefully inadequate.

Therefore we—the undersigned scientists, resource managers, agricultural officials, and other experts—call upon the U.S. Congress and the President to immediately take action to drastically slow the introduction and spread of invasive species and to counteract the severe environmental, economic, and other harm these species cause. These actions would be invaluable and long-lasting gifts to the nation.

Three Gifts Congress Should Give Immediately

We challenge the U.S. Congress to strengthen outmoded laws and to take a comprehensive approach to protecting the Nation’s resources. Specifically, we ask that Congress:

  • Immediately pass the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act—to reauthorize one of our most important laws and to broaden it in key ways.
  • Quickly enact Executive Order 13112 on invasive species into federal law—to ensure that new means for coordinating government efforts have a permanent institutional home.
  • Swiftly provide the funds for a program to detect newly-arriving non-native species and to respond to them rapidly—while populations are small and costs are low.

Three Gifts the President Should Give Right Now

We call on the President to ensure that federal agencies:

  • Promptly undertake both a major research campaign to better understand the impacts of invasive species and to enhance knowledge needed for making critical policy decisions; and also begin an extensive public awareness effort to deter unauthorized or accidental releases of non-native species.
  • Immediately begin screening species for potential invasiveness before they are imported.
  • Rapidly negotiate strict North American standards to limit pests arriving on shipments of plants.

Furthermore, we ask the Congress and the White House to establish a new national center on biological invasions to lead the United States in strengthening public and private efforts at all levels. These measures, taken effectively and with care, will not jeopardize essential international trade nor the livelihoods and rights of responsible business and property owners. Quite the opposite: these steps will contribute to the prosperity of the nation and to the conservation of its most valuable resources well into the future.

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