Plan Supports Implementation of President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service today unveiled a national strategy to prevent and control the threat of invasive species and non-native plants in the United States. This action is part of the President’s Healthy Forests Initiative to restore forest and rangeland health and protect communities from wildland fire and supports the President’s Executive Order promoting cooperative conservation.
“Millions of acres of public and private lands are at risk from non-native species. Each year the United States loses 1.7 million acres to the spread of these invasives, in addition to spending billions of dollars on control measures,” said Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey at the site of the Forest Service’s new threat assessment center, slated to open early next year, which will develop user-friendly technology and cutting-edge research on invasive species. “This national strategy will help to prevent, find and contain the spread while working to rehabilitate and restore ecosystems.”
The National Strategy and Implementation Plan for Invasive Species Management focuses on four key elements: preventing invasive species before they arrive; finding new infestations before they spread and become established; containing and reducing existing infestations; and rehabilitating and restoring native habitats and ecosystems.
The plan will use one of the new tools developed under the Healthy Forests Initiative--an early warning system to help land managers detect new invasives. Title VI of the 2004 Healthy Forests Restoration Act called for the Forest Service to develop such a system to improve its detection and response abilities to ecological disturbances across the nation. The Forest Service is establishing two environmental threat assessment centers to cover both the eastern and western United States; the western center is located here in Prineville.
The cornerstone of the strategy is cooperative conservation: working with public and private organizations though partnerships. For example, the Forest Service recently signed an agreement with The American Chestnut Foundation to restore the beloved American chestnut tree, which was once one of the dominant tree species in the eastern United States forests 50 years ago before a chestnut blight nearly wiped it out.
An estimated 70 million acres of public and private lands are at serious risk from 26 different insects and diseases nationwide, most of which are non-native. An invasive species is defined as a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. They take advantage of their new surroundings to crowd out or kill off native species, destroying habitat for native wildlife. They can also cause significant tree mortality creating an increased risk of catastrophic wildfire to communities.
The Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection and Research and Development programs work to minimize the spread of established invasive species and lessening the damages caused by native and non-native insects, pathogens and plants. By working with other Federal, State and private organizations, the agency protects and improves America’s forests using cutting-edge technology to rapidly respond to forest health threats.
To learn more about the Forest Service’s National Strategy and Implementation Plan for Invasive Species Management, visit www.fs.fed.us. For more information, visit the www.invasivespecies.gov, the gateway to Federal efforts concerning invasive species.