United States Department of Interior | United States Department of Agriculture | United States Department of Commerce


Release No. 0043.99
USDA: Andy Solomon (202) 720-4623
Interior: Tim Ahern (202) 208-5089
Commerce: Matt Stout (202) 482-6090
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 1999 President Clinton today is signing an executive order to coordinate a federal strategy to address the growing environmental and economic threat of invasive species, plants and animals that are not native to the United States.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and Commerce Under Secretary James Baker told a news conference that the order creates an Invasive Species Council. The Council will develop a comprehensive plan to minimize the economic, ecological, and human health impacts of invasive species and determine further steps to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species. The Council, to be chaired by Glickman, Babbitt, and Commerce Secretary William Daley, will work in cooperation with a variety of groups, including states, tribes, scientists, universities, environmental groups, farm organizations, shipping interests, and the business community.

"This is a unified, all-out battle against unwanted plant and animal pests that threaten to wreak major economic and environmental havoc," said Glickman. "Asian long-horned beetles destroy trees. Leafy spurge reduces the productivity of grazing land by 50 to 75 percent. Zebra mussels clog water intake pipes, shutting down electrical utilities. These are serious threats."

"There are a lot of global bioinvasive hitchhikers, and now is the time to take action," said Babbitt. "The costs to habitat and the economy are racing out of control. New resources are needed now, and this order opens the door to accomplish just that."

"This executive order is good news for our ongoing fight against the invasion of marine alien species. The ocean serves as a highway in transporting these invasive species into U.S. waters," said Baker. "Every minute 40,000 gallons of foreign ballast water is dumped into U.S. harbors -- this water contains a multitude of non-indigenous organism which could alter or destroy America's natural marine ecosystems."

President Clinton's budget for fiscal year 2000, released on Monday, proposes an increase of more than $28.8 million in funding to combat invasive species. This includes new funding for combating exotic pests and diseases as well as accelerating research on habitat restoration and biologically-based integrated pest management tactics.

Many ecologists believe the spread of exotic species constitutes one of the most serious, yet least appreciated, threats to biodiversity. Invasive plants inflict a heavy toll on American agriculture, reducing the quality and raising the cost of food, feed, and fiber. Experts estimate that invasive plants already infest over 100 million acres. Three million acres, an area twice the size of Delaware, is lost to invasive plants each year. The total economic impact of invasive species on the U.S. economy is estimated to be about $123 billion annually. Some examples --

Today's announcement signals an expanded effort to combat invasive species. The President's order directs federal agencies to use their authority to prevent the introduction of invasive species and to restore native species. It directs the new interagency Council to come up with an detailed invasive species management plan within 18 months.

Federal officials were joined at today's announcement by eminent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson. Other scientists who have led calls for stronger federal action to combat invasive species include James T. Carlton of Williams College; Don C. Schmitz of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Daniel Simberloff, the Nancy Gore Hunger Professor of Excellence in Environmental Science at the University of Tennessee; and Phyllis N. Windle, author of a Congressional report on invasive species.

Aggressive federal actions are already underway, including measures to prevent entry of invasive species, eradicate invasive species before establishment, control invasive species once established, and conduct outreach and education for the general public. These actions include --



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Last updated: 2/3/99