Contact: Matt Stout, NOAA; Andy Solomon, USDA; Tim Ahern, Interior


President Clinton today is signing an executive order to coordinate a federal strategy to address the growing environmental and economic threat of invasive species, plants and animals that are not native to ecosystems of the United States.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, and Commerce Under Secretary James Baker told a news conference that the order creates an Invasive Species Council. The Council will develop a comprehensive plan to minimize the economic, ecological, and human health impacts of invasive species and determine further steps to prevent the introduction and spread of additional invasive species. The Council, to be chaired by Glickman, Babbitt, and Commerce Secretary William Daley, will work in cooperation with a variety of groups - including states, tribes, scientists, universities, shipping interests, environmental groups and farm organizations - to combat invasive plants and animals.

"This is a unified, all-out battle against unwanted plant and animal visitors that threaten to wreak major economic and environmental havoc," said Glickman. "Asian long-horned beetles destroy trees. Leafy spurge reduces the productivity of grazing land by 50 to 75 percent. Zebra mussels clog water intake pipes, shutting down electrical utilities. These are serious threats."

"There are a lot of bioinvasive hitchhikers from around the globe and now is the time to take action," said Babbitt. "The costs to habitats and the economy are racing out of control. New resources are needed now and this order will let us accomplish that."

"This executive order is good news for our ongoing fight against the invasion of marine alien species. The ocean serves as a highway in transporting these invasive species into U.S. waters," said Baker. "Every minute, 40,000 gallons of foreign ballast water is dumped into U.S. harbors - this water contains a multitude of non-indigenous organisms which could alter or destroy America's natural marine ecosystems."

President Clinton's budget for fiscal year 2000, released Monday, proposes an increase of more than $28.8 million in funding to combat invasive species. This includes new funding for combating exotic pests and diseases as well as accelerating research on habitat restoration and biologically-based integrated pest management tactics.

Many ecologists believe the spread of exotic species is one of the most serious, yet least appreciated, threats to biodiversity. Invasive plants inflict a heavy toll on American agriculture, reducing the quality and raising the cost of food, feed, and fiber. Experts estimate that invasive plants already infest over 100 million acres. Three million acres, an area twice the size of Delaware, is lost of invasive plants each year. The total economic impact of invasive plants on the U.S. economy is estimated to be about $123 billion annually. Invasive animal species wreak billions more in damage to crops and rangeland. Some examples:

  • The zebra mussel can shut down electrical utilities by clogging water intake pipes and threatens to cause an estimated $5 billion in damages by 2002, if unchecked.
  • Leafy spurge causes more than $144 million in livestock forage damage each year in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
  • Invading sea lampreys caused the collapse of lake trout and other Great Lakes fisheries, costing the U.S. and Canada $13 million annually to control.
  • The brown tree snake has caused over 200 snake bites, 1200 electrical outages and the extinction of most native forest birds on Guam.
  • When the Asian long-horned beetle infested Brooklyn, New York, more than 2000 trees had to be destroyed, costing the federal and state government more than $5 million. A similar infestation now plagues Chicago.

Today's announcements signal an expanded effort to combat invasive species. The President's order directs federal agencies to use their authority to prevent the introduction of invasive species and to restore native species. It directs the new interagency Council to come up with an invasive species management plan within 18 months.

Federal officials were joined at today's announcement by eminent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson. Other scientists who have led calls for stronger federal action to combat invasive species include James T. Carlton of Williams College; Don C. Schmitz of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Daniel Simberloff, the Nancy Gore Hunger Professor of Excellence in Environmental Studies at the University of Tennessee; and Phyllis N. Windle, author of a Congressional report on invasive species.

Aggressive federal actions are already underway, including measures to prevent the entry of invasive species, eradicate invasive species before establishment, control invasive species once established, and conduct outreach and education for the general public. These actions include:

  • To prevent entry of invasive species, USDA has more than 1300 inspectors at more than 90 ports of entry inspecting commodities. The inspectors are assisted in some ports by the Beagle Brigade, a group of dogs trained to sniff out prohibited agricultural products.
  • USDA has prohibited the importation of untreated wood packing material from China, which has previously carried the Asian long-horned beetle into the United States - and has proposed extending this ban to other countries.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will build a barrier this spring in the Chicago Ship Canal, to prevent the spread of invasive species between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins.
  • The Interior Department is spending $4.5 million annually to prevent the spread of the brown tree snake from Guam. The Department of Defense is part of this effort. Key elements are an extensive control program on Guam, support for research effort to develop new control measures, and participation in Oahu's island-wide surveillance and response plan.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Interior Department, and other federal and state agencies are working to restore the natural ecology of the South Florida and Everglades ecosystems. As this massive replumbing gets underway, NOAA and the Interior Department have made clear that safeguards must be taken to ensure that the new water flows do not become highways for exotic species to be transported through Florida's fragile environment.
  • NOAA is sponsoring research on new technologies for treatment of ballast water to reduce the threat of foreign organisms being discharged into U.S. waters.
  • The federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds collaborated on research and publication of a comprehensive fact book on invasive plants.

Executive Order

The Executive Order (EO) directs Federal agencies to use their authorities to prevent the introduction of invasive species, to control, monitor and to restore native species. The EO establishes a Federal interagency Invasive Species Council (Council), co-chaired by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce and includes State, Treasury, Defense, Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Council will be directed to create an invasive species management plan. The Secretary of the Interior will establish an advisory committee to provide information and advice for consideration by the Council including recommended plans and actions at the local, state, regional and ecosystem-based levels to achieve the goals of the Management Plan. The Council will act in cooperation with states, tribes, scientific, agricultural organizations, conservation groups and other stakeholders.

The Council has seven duties: (1) overseeing implementation of the EO; (2) supporting field-level planning; (3) identifying international recommendations; (4) creating National Environmental Policy Act guidance; (5) establishing an impact monitoring network; (6) developing a web-based information network; (7) preparing a National Invasive Species Management Plan.

The Management Plan is due within 18 months after the EO is issued and will be prepared in consultation with various stakeholders at the state and local levels. The purpose of the EO is to ensure coordination between the Federal agencies and strengthen the ability to partner with the states and other organizations. The Management Plan will include detailed goals, objectives and measures of success and will identify needed personnel and other resources. The Management Plan will be updated every two years with an accompanying public report on success in implementation. The first edition of the Management Plan will review relevant existing programs and authorities, recommended needed measures, and identify legislative needs.