Urges Foreign Species Action
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- When alien northern
snakeheads surfaced in a Maryland pond this year, wildlife
officials moved in quickly to wipe out the breeding population
That apparent success typifies what
some in Congress and environmentalists are now saying
is needed to counter invasive species in the nation's
wildlife refuges: an army of 5,000 volunteers trained
to hit the ground in "strike teams."
A report being released Thursday
says 8 million of the 94 million acres in the national
wildlife refuge system are infested with nonnative plant
and animal species.
The report by the National Wildlife
Refuge Association urges Congress to spend $30 million
a year over five years to train volunteers for 50 rapid
response strike teams.
Evan Hirsche, the association's
president, says the snakehead case shows the importance
of being able to act practically overnight.
"Once you've got a heavy infestation
of an invasive, whether it's an animal or a plant ...
it's awfully hard to completely eliminate them,"
he said. "On the other hand, if you've got eyes out
there on the ground looking for early infestations, the
chances are pretty good you're going to be able to stop
a broader spread of these invasives."
Those who agree include Sens. Larry
Craig, R-Idaho, and James Jeffords, I-Vt., along with
Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md.
Rahall and Gilchrest introduced
a bill to top that long-term spending goal by authorizing
$375 million to combat invasive species in the refuges.
Rahall noted the migration of just
one species, the zebra mussel, from the Great Lakes to
a West Virginia refuge accounted for five native species
being listed as endangered, and cost billions to unclog
and repair water pipes and filters in the Great Lakes
He said government partnerships
with other public and private landowners is "the
only way we can truly achieve success in defeating the
space invaders and protecting our native fish and wildlife."
For this year's budget, the Bush
administration and Congress have generally agreed to spend
$56 million above last year's $218 million for operating
the refuge system.