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Working Group Reports:
Group Members: George Beck, Robert Eplee, Cynthia Boettner, Mike Carrol, Jack Edmundson, Fred Lamming, Steve Manning, Neil Ogg, Tim Playford, Craig Searle, Jennifer Vollmer
After a new invasive plant is reported in the U.S., or in a region where it had not been found before, the next step is to utilize invasive plant specialists from around the country to determine how, when, and where to rapidly respond. The specific charge to the rapid response working group was to conceptualize and outline a coordinated local, state, and national interagency framework that will:
The Rapid Response Working Group identified three prerequisites for effective rapid response:
A rapid response system would be composed of a number of different entities which would interact at the local, state and national levels.
State Invasive Species Council (SISC) – Successful rapid response requires a community of invasive plant management experts working in an efficient network on a state-to-state basis. Rapid response networks would be established under the auspices of the state invasive species councils. One suggestion is that the Governor appoint the Council. Members of the Council could include, but not be limited to State and County agencies, state offices of Federal agencies, Academia, private landowners, industry stakeholders, and conservation organizations.
The SISCs could cooperate in planning rapid responses by establishing regional and national coordinating committees. In this manner, consultation among neighboring states could be easily effected, as well as discussion of issues of national significance.
The State Rapid Response Committee (SRRC) would be a group of experts within the SISC with the primary purpose of receiving and acting upon information received from the State Rapid Assessment Committee (SRAC). The SRRC should include experts in on-the-ground management of invasive plants. The make up of the committee would vary among the states, depending on the policies, patterns of land ownership, and infrastructure within each state. The committee would utilize available resources to plan rapid response initiatives for species identified as high risk by the State Rapid Assessment Committee. The SRRC would have the responsibility for making the initial implementation decision and for providing guidance to the SISC on plant management issues. If the committee cannot agree upon a management recommendation, it should be referred to the regional or national levels. TOP
The SRRC would recommend a response strategy based on assessments of the costs and benefits of control measures on crops, ecosystems, resources of the affected area. Such strategies would include:
Funding - The State Rapid Response Committee should have a process for accessing funds from a state or national level emergency fund, as is available for emergency response to wildfires and natural disasters. Another option is the HAZMAT analogy, where the entity responsible for introducing a toxic pollutant or an invasive species would be responsible for all or part of the control costs. Funding would be justified on the basis of protecting ecosystems, crops, or human health.
Barriers and Stumbling Blocks. A number of stumbling blocks to emergency response were identified, especially for Federal agencies. There may be a delay in emergency response because it is necessary to complete site-specific environmental documentation including environmental impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Because of the site specificity requirement, it may be difficult to share NEPA documentation among jurisdictions. There may be a dilemma of which should have the higher priority for protection, individual at risk species vs. threatened ecosystems with each having their own advocates in the community. The most efficient chemical control recommended by the SRRC may not be labeled for the requested use and thus not available to Federal agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency timeline for review of emergency labeling once an invasive species population is identified may be too long to permit rapid control of the species before reproduction and occurs. On a state level, state legislation to encourage or allow control of invasive plants on private lands may not be available. Jurisdictional boundaries across Federal, state and private lands may impede efforts to implement an effective coordinated response.