The National Wildlife Federation

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Combatting Invasive Species

Invasive species—non-native plants and animals from other parts of the world—threaten native wildlife and ecosystems and are causing ecological havoc in many of our most sensitive habitats, pushing many of our native plants and animals to the brink of extinction.

Invasive species are a major threat to biodiversity in the United States, second only to habitat loss and degradation. Non-native invaders can also be a threat to human health, and cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars by rendering range lands unpalatable, clogging water pipes, and decimating commercial fisheries by serving as transmitters of disease. Unfortunately climate change is expected to greatly exacerbate the impact of invasive species on our native wildlife and ecosystems.

Stopping the Invasion

Once invasive species become established and spread, it can be extraordinarily difficult and costly to control or eradicate them. As a result, the best approaches for dealing with the invasive species is to:

The National Wildlife Federation works to attack the problem of invasive species by:

The National Wildlife Federation supports a revision of the Lacey Act to require screening of animal imports by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Lacey Act provides authority for the FWS to name groups of animals as "injurious species" and thus restrict their import. However, it does not require that animal species being proposed for import first be screened for either invasiveness or disease risk. This creates unacceptable threats to native wildlife, to the economy, and to human and animal health. Thus, Congress should provide the FWS with the necessary authority to screen invasive animals, both terrestrial and aquatic, rather than relying on the Lacey Act's currently ineffective provisions.

Ballast water from ships is the primary vector for unintentionally introducing invasive aquatic organisms into U.S. waters. Most of the 185 invasive species in the Great Lakes were introduced via ballast water discharge. The National Wildlife Federation believes an important step in addressing this is to require all ships to treat their ballast water before it is discharged and to use specific "best management practices" to stop the continued introduction of aquatic invasive species.

Invasive carp threaten to decimate Great Lakes ecosystems. Their DNA has been found in Lake Michigan and in the navigation channels connecting the Mississippi River System to the Great Lakes. The National Wildlife Federation is leading the charge to ensure the Illinois and Federal governments take all necessary immediate measures to prevent invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes, while working towards permanent separation of Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River System.

Detecting new invaders quickly, and responding rapidly to eliminate them, is essential to limiting impacts and costs when prevention fails. However, federal and state agencies generally lack the resources needed to monitor for new invasions, and to quickly respond when found. Such delays give invaders time to reproduce, increase in numbers, and spread, making extirpation or control much more difficult. The National Wildlife Federation supports stronger federal funding for early detection and rapid response efforts.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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Regional Centers and Affiliates