Bill to help fight against quagga mussels and non-native weeds that fuel wildfires
March 3, 2010
Washington, DC – Nevada Senator Harry Reid today introduced the Invasive Species Emergency Response Fund Act, legislation designed to protect Nevada and other states in the American West from invasive species. This bill, previously known as the 100th Meridian Invasive Species State Revolving Fund, addresses the issue of invasive species based on need, starting with western states as the models.
“The threat to Nevada posed by invasive species continues to increase,” Reid said. “For any other emergency, people can dial 911. This legislation provides something comparable for first-line responders who work to prevent and fight against noxious pests.”
Providing low-interest loans for invasive species projects will help promote wildfire management, preserve water resources, reduce changes to wildfire habitat, and protect ecological gems of the West. Biological invasions in Nevada have altered wildfire regimes, water systems, and the balance of our native species, costing the state millions of dollars in economical and ecological losses.
One recent study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that a mussel invasion in Lake Tahoe could cost the tourism economy more than $22 million per year. Invasive weeds on Nevada public lands tax wildlife-related recreationists up to $17 million annually. Removing tamarisk, or salt cedar, from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area would restore enough water to satisfy the needs of 72,000 Las Vegas residents. And, more than 16 million acres of western rangelands are heavily affected by alien plants, with 2,300 additional acres being invaded each day. Reid’s prepared remarks as submitted for the record are included below.
“Mr. President, I am pleased to introduce bipartisan legislation that will protect the unique ecosystems of the American West from the harmful effects of invasive, non-native species. I am joined by my cosponsors Senators Begich, Bennet of Colorado, Bennett of Utah, Feinstein, Merkley, Murkowski, and Wyden.
“The Invasive Species Emergency Response Fund provides resources to: prevent the introduction and spread of harmful invasive species; protect susceptible habitats; and establish early detection and rapid response capabilities to combat incipient invasive species populations.
“As global climate change patterns shift, particular habitats in the West will be especially vulnerable to the impacts of new species introductions. Hence, the new paradigms in invasive species management provided via this legislation are critically needed. When it comes to invasive species management, history is replete with examples illustrating the adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“The impact of invasive species in the United States is now widespread. More than 6,500 non-native, invasive species have been introduced into the United States and become established populations. Studies show that the damage caused by these pests and their associated control costs total more than $100 billion annually. The unique ecologies of the West are particularly vulnerable to their harmful effects.
“My home state of Nevada is at the center of this ecological storm. Non-native species decrease rangeland capacity; lower water tables; reduce water quality; increase fuel loads; and displace native plants and wildlife habitats. Some in the environmental community have identified the Great Basin as the third most endangered ecosystem in the United States due in part to the dominance of invasive species.
“Moreover, once invasive species have gained a foothold in Western States, they exacerbate other critical issues, including water quantity and quality, and wildfire. Zebra mussels in Lake Mead are now poised to wreak havoc on the lake’s water quality. Tamarisk’s long tap roots intercept deep water tables, exploiting up to 200 gallons of water per tree per day. Millions of acres of cheatgrass and beetle-killed trees stand ready to burn if sparked. In fact, the fire cycle in the Great Basin has shortened from 25-50 years to only 3-5 years as a direct result of the take-over of invasive weeds.
“These few examples underscore the need for this long overdue legislation. State and local agencies and organizations that fight invasive species need access to resources when a new threat is identified, not when funds are available based on bureaucratic budget cycle.
“Bark beetles, quagga mussels, and Medusahead have no respect for budget cycles or state lines. Hence, I urge my colleagues to support this critical legislation. It is paramount if we want to protect our unique Western landscape.
“I ask unanimous consent that the text of the legislation be printed in the record following this statement.”