The unchecked spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) is one of the most significant threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem. Invasive species are not native to the ecosystem, and by definition cause harm to human health, the environment and the economy. Zebra and quagga mussels now coat the floor of Lake Michigan, Asian Carp are infiltrating rivers and are at the doorstep of Lake Michigan, and efforts to control sea lamprey cost $16 million per year with limited success. The discovery of the Zebra Mussel showed that prevention is critical, as controlling an invasion is nearly impossible.
The unloading of ballast water–meant to balance a ship’s weight–is a main source of introducing invasive species into the Great Lakes. One study estimated ~$200 million is lost annually due to invasions caused by shipping, and ballast discharge is expected to increase with a boom in liquid natural gas exports. The Vehicle Discharge Act, under consideration by Congress, would further weaken ballast water control by transferring regulatory authority from the EPA to the Coast Guard, which lacks water pollution expertise. It would also create ballast exemptions from the Clean Water Act that are intended to protect water quality, public health, and native species.
1) The estimated damage from invasive species worldwide totals more than $1.4 trillion, or five percent of the global economy.
2) Invasive species create a loss of agricultural productivity—about one fourth of U.S. agricultural gross national product is lost each year to foreign plant pests and the costs of controlling them.
3) The annual U.S. cost from invasives was estimated to be $120 billion, with more than 100 million acres affected (i.e., about the size of California)
4) Invasive species are the second leading cause of animal population decline and extinction worldwide. Invasive species have contributed directly to the decline of 42% of threatened and endangered species in the United States.
Each state has the ability to enact laws and rules related to invasive species within its boundaries and to define those species. Below are four strategies states have employed to address AIS and ballast water issues.
- Formal or informal legislative caucuses, such as the Ohio Lake Erie Caucus, offer dedicated attention to water issues, including AIS.
- Coordinated monitoring between states coupled with increased management funding both federally and in state budgets.
- Updating and strengthening state Aquatic Invasive Species Action Plans
- Increased awareness of AIS and the importance of strong ballast water standards for ecosystem and economic health.
Science & Reports
- Building Consensus in the West: Developing a Model Legal Framework for Watercraft Inspection and Decontamination Programs – National Sea Grant Law Center, 2015
The National Sea Grant Law Center produced this report on western state watercraft inspection and decontamination (WIP) programs to stop aquatic invasive species. A companion report provides comparisons of all 50 states, model state legislation, and multi-state reciprocity recommendations. The reports and an infographic map of the nation can be found here.
- Stemming the Tide of Aquatic Species – Univ. of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, 2014
This article describes research and strategies being used to slow aquatic invasives. The full article is available here.
- Halting the Invasion: State Tools for Invasive Species Management– Environmental Law Institute(ELI), 2002
This seminal study analyzes the existing state laws and regulations that address invasive species, provides policy-makers with information on how to strengthen invasive species control programs, and includes an appendix of state-specific invasive species laws and regulations. The recommendations have been incorporated into state invasive species management plans in New Jersey and in other states.The study can be accessed here.
This companion publication to “Halting the Invasion” provides the statutory framework for a comprehensive state program to detect, control, and manage the threat of invasive species across all taxa. The model law has been introduced by legislators in California and used to support reform efforts in the Caribbean. The complete publication is available here.
This report reviews state laws and policies of 11 states from 2002 to 2009. The full report can be viewed here.
Download the NCEL Fact Sheet with key points and links to legislation here.
Download the NCEL information sheet with key points and links to legislation here.
This website explains what makes a species invasive, provides specific examples, and offers suggestions for addressing the emerging threat. You can view the website here.
This website outlines invasive species threats in the Great Lakes region, as well recent news about the issue. You can access the website here.
The USDA National Agricultural Library houses a National Invasive Species Information Center. The Center maintains this interactive map with state statutes and regulations that pertain to invasive species. The map is available here.
The National Plant Board maintains this list of state laws and regulations on plant quarantines, noxious plants, plant pests and plant disease vectors. The complete list is available here.
This USGS interactive map shows zebra and quagga mussel invasions down to the county level. The map is available here.
- Maps of All Invasive Species in U.S. – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia
The Early Detection & Distribution Mapping (EDDMaps) project provides an exhaustive interactive list of invasive species of plants, insects, wildlife and diseases with national, county, and GIS point maps for individual invasive species. The full list is available here.
Recent News Stories
A new op-ed by Cassandra Carmichael, Executive Director of the National Religious Partnerships for the Environment, defends the Endangered Species Act and underscores the religious reasons for ensuring policies value every species on the planet. From the article: “Protecting the environment and strengthening the economy are not mutually exclusive — in fact, study after […]
A new Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans oppose opening federal lands for oil exploration, compared with just 34% who were against the idea five years ago. The findings come as the federal government considers expanding energy production on public lands. More Information: An NBC News story on the results is available here. The Gallup […]
The last week has seen major national and international developments to address wildlife trafficking, and states are positioned to take even stronger action. On September 21, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the END Wildlife Trafficking Act (HR 2494). The bill addresses global poaching and illegal trafficking of elephant ivory by identifying nations that […]
This session, the Colorado State Legislature passed a bill to establish a public lands day in the state. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Kerry Donovan, and passed on May 11, 2016. Recent years have seen increased pressure from anti-environmental groups to force a shift of ownership or control of public lands from the […]
In the U.S., up to 1.5 million wildlife/vehicle accidents occur every year, resulting in over 200 human deaths, 29,000 human injuries, and $4.8 billion in insurance industry losses. This session, the New Hampshire State Legislature passed a bill to study to identify and report on existing and needed wildlife corridors and wildlife crossings across highways […]
Voters in Washington state banned ivory sales as well as products from ten endangered species when they passed the Washington Animal Trafficking Initiative 1401 (I-1401) last month. The ballot measures means Washington now joins California, New Jersey and New York as the only states that have restrictions on the trade of exotic wildlife parts such […]
Thanks to a generous renewal grant from the Woodtiger Fund, NCEL is able to once again publish bimonthly briefings on conservation issues.
Over 200 State Legislators Call on President Obama for Continued Action to Protect America’s Public Lands
BRIEFING Cons Law and Policy 11th 12.13 fnl
Conservation Briefing – June-July 2013