Proposed Bill Aims to Slow Invasive Species Introductions
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) approach to nonnative species may soon change from a primarily reactive one to a more preventative one if recently introduced legislation passes. The bill, titled the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act (H.R. 6311), was introduced by Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans, and would ban the intentional introduction of nonnative species prior to a formal scientific assessment. The Lacey Act, the legislation currently in place to deal with nonnative species, only deals with animals that have already caused serious harm in the U.S., at which time they may be deemed “injurious” and further importation is prohibited. Under the proposed legislation, the FWS would create an evaluation process for species within two years, and within 37 months a “white list” of safe species would be composed.
Chairwoman Bordallo’s homeland of Guam is an interesting case study on nonnative species. Shortly after World War II, the nonnative brown tree snake was unintentionally introduced to Guam, presumably on cargo ships coming from New Guinea. In the half century since it first arrived in Guam, the brown tree snake has wreaked incredible havoc on the native wildlife, due in large part to the fact it faces no competition or natural predators. The burgeoning brown tree snake population has had significant ecological impacts and is largely responsible for the extirpation of twelve of Guam’s native bird species and half of its lizards. The disappearance of Guam’s last native mammal, the Marianas fruit bat, is likely to occur in the next year as well.
One of the major groups opposing H.R. 6311 is the commercial pet industry, as the bill is likely to significantly increase regulation on the pet trade. However the FWS wants to do whatever it can to reduce future invasive species troubles like the current one involving non-native Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) in Southern Florida. The everglades are currently home to an estimated 30,000 Burmese Pythons which are depredating heavily on species like the endangered Key Largo Woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli), and nearly all of these pythons are released pets or the progeny thereof.
Sources: E&E Publishing, LLC (E&E Daily, Landletter), USGS