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State Invasive Species Programs Require Federal Support

May 2010

(Washington, DC) — The Environmental Law Institute and the Union of Concerned Scientists announce the publication of Status and Trends in State Invasive Species Policy: 2002-2009. The new report reviews developments in state laws and regulations governing invasive species in eleven states. It finds that invasive species laws and regulations are often fragmented and incomplete and have developed primarily on a species-by-species basis in response to crisis. As a result, they often fail to address potential future invaders or close off known invasion pathways. Fortunately, states have begun regulating invasion pathways and identifying species that may become invasive in the future due to climate change or other factors. States are increasingly creating interagency councils and management plans to coordinate these novel invasive species responses.

According to the authors, states can benefit from forward-looking legal reforms that focus on preventing future invasions through known pathways. “In the next 10 years, states will need to improve and expand on the novel legal authorities that they have enacted in recent years,” said Dr. Phyllis Windle, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Climate change and other evolving threats demand a prospective and adaptive response to ensure that regulatory decisions are made on the basis of the best available science.”

The report concludes that federal action is needed in the form of legal reform and increased funding. “States are a crucial link in addressing invasive species, but they cannot act alone,” cautioned Read Porter, director of the Environmental Law Institute’s invasive species program. “Where states lack legal authority to act — as for regulation of wildlife importation — the federal government has a responsibility to take action to safeguard the economy, environment, and public health.” Current federal funding for invasive species management also is insufficient and jeopardizes the effectiveness of the new councils and plans recently created by states.