News & Action
Congressional briefing on stopping the next Burmese python, Asian carp and quagga mussel invasions through House and Senate bills on invasive species prevention
When: Friday, June 21, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Where: Cannon HOB 122
Who: Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-28th) (invited); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) (invited); Manley Fuller, President, Florida Wildlife Federation; Jerry Rasmussen, Great Lakes United; Peter Jenkins, National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species; Bruce Stein, National Wildlife Federation, Moderator.
What: The briefing will focus on invasive species and on HR 996, the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act, introduced by Rep. Slaughter, and the companion bill, S. 1153, by Sen. Gillibrand. It also will address HR 1823, the Protecting Lakes Against Quaggas Act, to prevent quagga mussel invasions.
Why: HR 996 and S. 1153 would dramatically strengthen the ability of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make rapid, science-based, decisions on whether non-native fish or wildlife species will be invasive, pose a threat to ecosystems within the United States, cause economic damage or threaten public or wildlife health. Invasive species are a costly thorn in the side of the American taxpayer. For example, in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, the Federal budget allocated $120 million to control the Asian carp. Meanwhile the U.S. is spending tens of millions more dollars to control other invaders, such as wetland-destroying nutria, zebra and quagga mussels and two huge python species established in the wild in Florida. Yet, Federal officials, due to Federal law, are very slow to respond to emerging threats.
Light Breakfast Fare Will Be Served
Briefing is sponsored by the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (www.necis.net) with support from the Office of Rep. Louise Slaughter. This is a widely attended event.
PROPOSED LEGISLATION WOULD STRENGTHEN PROTECTIONS AGAINST INVASIVE ANIMAL SPECIES
Senator Gillibrand introduces bill to prevent the import of harmful non-native fish and wildlife
WASHINGTON (June, 7, 2013)—Acting in the interest of the nation’s environment and economy, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) took a major step forward today to stop the import of invasive, non-native animals by introducing “The Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2013.” This bill will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent new, harmful fish and wildlife from being imported into the country and to more quickly act to prevent the spread of those that are already here. This Senate bill is a companion bill of H.R. 996, which was introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) earlier this year.
The current U.S. law governing the import of animals is more than a century old, and has proven to be ineffective in protecting the country from the influx of thousands of non-native fish and wildlife species being imported into the country, hundreds of which are already known to be invasive or present disease risk. Recent invasions by imported animal species such as the Burmese python, Asian carp, northern snakehead, and red lionfish are together costing federal, state, and local governments tens of millions of dollars annually in efforts to control them. These costs could have been avoided if authorities had considered their risks beforehand and restricted their importation.
“The current injurious species listing process is a regulatory dinosaur that, in most cases, only closes the proverbial barn door after invasive species have escaped and become established,” said Peter Jenkins, spokesperson for the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species. “We applaud Senator Gillibrand for introducing this proposed legislation, which will allow the federal government to proactively prevent future invasions of fish and wildlife that can cause permanent harm to the environment, spread disease, and cost millions of dollars to control.”
As a leading import market, the United States receives hundreds of millions of live, non-native animals each year for use in aquaculture or for sale by the pet and aquarium trades and other businesses. For years, the federal government has come under sharp criticism for allowing the import of invasive animal species that cause extensive damage to ecosystems, are a cost burden to taxpayers, and present safety or health threats.
“This bill is a 21st century solution that improves oversight for the trade of live animals by updating a law enacted 113 years ago,” said Jennifer Caddick, spokesperson for Great Lakes United. “It provides a significant boost to national efforts to prevent future invasions and protects our environment, wildlife, and economy,”
The proposed legislation will create a new screening system to proactively review live animals proposed for import to the United States and to restrict those that pose serious risks before they are imported, while also immediately giving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service greater flexibility and authority to make science-based decisions to prohibit or restrict live animals already in trade. The current law regulating animal imports does not require that animals being imported first be screened for invasiveness, for diseases they might carry, or for the risks they pose to human or wildlife health.
“Senator Gillibrand and Representative Slaughter have created a critical opportunity for Congress to close the loophole that has allowed harmful invasive species to alter U.S. ecosystems and push out native species,” said Bentley Johnson, legislative representative for the National Wildlife Federation. “Enacting these bills would be one of the most significant policy advances in animal import oversight by the federal government.”
For a fact sheet on the economic impact of imported invasive species and diseases: www.glu.org/en/system/files/Factsheet_necis_economics_final.pdf
Established in 2003, the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS) is a national network of 18 major conservation and environmental organizations that provides a united expert and scientific voice on invasive species policy. Its leaders include scientists, lawyers, activists, and advocates with many years of experience on invasives policy. For more information, please visit www.necis.net.
Last week the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species joined a group of 96 organizations in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget outlining concerns over a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule that could provide incentives to spread a harmful invasive species.
The rule would allow a plant called Arundo donax (also known as Giant Reed, Colorado River Reed, and Giant Cane), a known invasive species, to qualify as an “advanced biofuel feedstock” under the Renewable Fuel Standard. This means that producers would get money from the federal government for growing giant reed as a source to create biofuel.
Growing plants for energy can potentially be a cleaner and less harmful alternative to fossil fuels, but only if it is done responsibly. Planting a species that has been listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species is not responsible. Invasive species cost the United States over $120 billion every year.
Given the clear risks associated with growing giant reed for energy, the last thing we need is to be spending taxpayer-funded money encouraging producers to plant this stuff. There is still time for EPA to hit pause and fix the rule before finalizing it.
To view the letter and find out more information about this proposed rule, read National Wildlife Federation’s blog post here: http://blog.nwf.org/2012/10/an-environmental-disaster-of-unimaginable-proportions/
A new article published in Biological Invasions delves deep into risk analysis and economic cost/benefit information gathered over the last year and a half. In the article Peter Jenkins, Executive Director of the Center for Invasive Species Prevention and member of the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species, also recommends specific federal policy reforms that will help address the shortcomings of a broken system to prevent harmful animal invasions. Mr. Jenkins also details how simple steps such as inexpensive risk assessments can produce net economic benefits for the nation and protect human and wildlife health from emerging zoonotic diseases. Click the link below to read the full article.
U.S. REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER INTRODUCES BILL TO PREVENT THE IMPORT OF HARMFUL NON-NATIVE ANIMALS AND DISEASES
Congress can give the Fish and Wildlife Service authority to stop costly invaders like Asian carp from ever being imported to the United States
WASHINGTON (May 31, 2012)—Yesterday evening, the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2012 (H.R. 5864) was introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and a bipartisan group of nine original co-sponsors to prevent the import of harmful, non-native fish, wildlife, and wildlife diseases. This legislation would strengthen the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) ability to designate animals as “injurious,” which cannot be imported or shipped between states without a permit. The legislation would empower the FWS to become proactive rather than reactive in its listing and restriction process, and stop harmful invasive fish and wildlife from ever arriving at U.S. shores. Original co-sponsors are Reps. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Mike Rogers (R-MI).
Examples of damaging imported invaders include Asian carp species, specifically the bighead and silver carp. These giant fish were imported in the 1970s, and escaped or were released into the wild. They are now thriving throughout the MississippiRiver basinwith only an electric barrier keeping them out of the Great Lakes. H.R. 5864 proposes a new process that could have kept these two intentionally imported species out of the country, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in control costs. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, approximately $204 million has been spent by federal, state, and local governments from 1998 through 2011, in an attempt to stop the spread of these fish into theGreat Lakes.
“If this legislation had been introduced decades ago, species like bighead and silver carp would have been banned before the first shipment,” said Jennifer Nalbone, director of Navigation and Invasive Species for Great Lakes United. “We have a lesson to learn from the Asian carp crisis; it’s time to put an updated, proactive approach in place. Our best defense is to screen out potential invaders from imports in the first place.”
For years, the federal government has come under sharp criticism for allowing the import of invasive animal species that cause damage, are a burden to taxpayers, or present safety or health threats. Examples include venomous red lionfish, originally imported for the aquarium trade and now invading the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and Burmese pythons originally imported for the pet trade and now menacing the Florida Everglades. The bill would implement a new regulatory process to more rapidly evaluate risks of importing non-native wildlife, and restrict those species that pose serious risks before they are imported to theUnited States. Current legislation regulating animal imports does not require that animals being imported first be screened for invasiveness, for diseases they might carry, or for the risks they pose to human or wildlife health.
This proposed legislation will create a new FWS screening system within six years, while immediately giving the agency greater flexibility and authority to make science-based decisions regarding prohibiting or restricting live animals in trade. The FWS also would get emergency authority to respond to the animal and human health threats posed by the live animal trade, a known potential vector for pathogens such as theWest Nileand monkeypox viruses.
“The existing 112-year-old regulatory process is very slow and utterly inadequate for the massive trade of live wild animals that is occurring in the 21st Century. It’s like continuing to use a musket in the age of unmanned drones,” said Peter Jenkins, spokesperson for the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species. “The listing of a damaging, non-native species often occurs after the species has either escaped or been released and become established, and this proves extremely costly for both taxpayers and ecosystems.”
As a leading import market, theUnited Statesreceives hundreds of millions of live non-native animals each year. Under the current law, it takes an average of four years for the federal government to stop the importation of potentially harmful wildlife. During this time period, an animal can continue to be imported, potentially enteringU.S.ecosystems, where it can spread widely, crowd out native wildlife, fundamentally alter natural systems, and spread infectious pathogens and harmful parasites.
“Representative Slaughter’s action provides a critical opportunity for Congress to close the loophole that allowed harmful invasive species like Asian carp, Burmese python, and red lionfish to enter the country,” said Dr. Bruce Stein of the National Wildlife Federation. “Enacting this bill would be one of the most significant policy advances we can make to prevent future harmful invasions.”
“For several years, Congress has considered bills that would modernize our antiquated and broken regulatory system, but the legislation has stalled,” said Mike Daulton, vice president of Government Relations for the National Audubon Society. “By acting now, Congress can save taxpayers millions of dollars a year in damages and control costs.”
Contact: Cindy Yeast, 720-542-9455; 202-236-5413 firstname.lastname@example.org
For a fact sheet on the economic impact of imported invasive species and diseases: http://www.glu.org/en/system/files/Factsheet_necis_economics_final.pdf
Established in 2003, the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS) is a national network of 18 major conservation and environmental organizations that provides a united expert and scientific voice on invasive species policy. Its leaders include scientists, lawyers, activists, and advocates with many years of experience on invasives policy.
To view NECIS’ letter to members of the House of Representatives encouraging support of H.R. 5864, click the following link: NECIS_billendorsement_House
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