What We Do to Stop Invasive Species

Cane toad on grass

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 U.S. biodiversity, 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 intact pipes, and decimating commercial fisheries by serving as disease vectors. Unfortunately, global warming is expected to greatly exacerbate the impact of invasive species on our native wildlife and ecosystems.

Learn more about invasive species >>

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:

  • Create effective mechanisms to prevent their introduction in the first place,
  • Create monitoring systems for detecting new infestations,
  • Move rapidly to eradicate newly detected invaders.

NWF works to attack the problem of invasive species by... 

  • Serving as a lead partner in the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species, a national partnership that provides a scientific voice on invasive species policy.

  • Establishing and strengthening federal policy restricting the importation of potentially damaging plant and animal species.

  • Advocating for new legislation to require treatment of ballast water in ocean-going vessels, a primary introduction pathway for damaging aquatic invasive species.

  • Advocating for robust restoration funding in the Great Lakes and other major ecosystems to repair the damage caused by existing invasive species.

  • Leading the charge to prevent Asian carp from entering and decimating the Great Lakes.

  • Educating gardeners about the importance of using native plants and removing invasives through our Garden for Wildlife program.  

Lacey Act Screening Provisions

NWF supports a revision of the Lacey Act to require screening of animal imports by the U.S. Fish and 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 Invasions

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. NWF 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.

Asian Carp Prevention

Asian 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. NWF is leading the charge to ensure the Illinois and Federal governments take all necessary immediate measures to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, while working towards permanent separation of Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River System.

Early Detection, Rapid Response

Finally, 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. NWF supports stronger federal funding for early detection and rapid response efforts.

Related Links 

  • They Came From Climate Change! - Deer ticks, poison ivy, fire ants, Asian tiger mosquitos, cheatgrass, salt cedar and pine bark beetles all stand to gain from global warming. Watch the trailer of our exclusive horror film!
  • The Threat of Invasive Species - Invasive species are one of the leading threats to native wildlife.
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