July 18, 2016

Standing On The Shores Of Lake Ontario, Gillibrand, Slaughter Announce Legislation To Protect New York's Natural Resources, Prevent Invasive Species From Entering The United States

Gillibrand and Slaughter’s Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act would give federal wildlife officials the ability the block importation of species that pose an imminent threat

Rochester, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter, co-chair of the bipartisan House Great Lakes Task Force, today announced introduction of the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act, legislation to protect New York’s natural resources from the threat of invasive species. This legislation would prevent potentially harmful species from being imported into the country and across state lines.

“The Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act would give federal wildlife officials new tools to keep out invasive species that pose an imminent threat to the Rochester area,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “In recent years, we’ve seen many cases of invasive species from other countries – dangerous animals that aren’t meant to live in our ecosystems here – being introduced into bodies of water around our state. We need to do more to prevent harmful species from coming here from overseas and harming our ecosystems, and this bill would finally let us begin to address this problem.”

“Invasive species cause $120 billion in damage across the United States every year and put more than 80 million acres of public and private land at risk. We don’t have to look too far upstream to see the threats they pose. The spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes alone put at risk 20 percent of all fresh water on Earth and a major source for fishing, recreation, and economic activity. That’s why I’m proud to stand with Senator Gillibrand today to introduce the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act to stop the spread of threats like the Asian carp, which would devastate the lakes’ ecosystem and our regional economy. Protecting our country from invasive species isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s an economic one,” said Congresswoman Slaughter, co-chair of the bipartisan House Great Lakes Task Force.

“Invasive species endanger New York’s native ecosystems, and also pose a serious threat to our economy. An estimated 50,000 non-native invasive species have been introduced to the United States, costing more than $100 billion annually. We simply cannot afford to wait until invasives are here to take action. The Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act is a critical step in preventing harmful species from entering the country, and will help protect the waters, farms and forests that New Yorkers depend upon. The Nature Conservancy supports this legislation and applauds Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Slaughter for being true champions of this issue,” said Jim Howe, Chapter Director, The Nature Conservancy.

Currently, more than 200 species are listed as “injurious” to natural resources in the United States. Once a species is listed as injurious, it cannot be imported into the United States or its territories, or through interstate commerce, without a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit. Under the current system, injurious designations happen after a species has already been introduced to the United States and established an ecosystem.

The legislation introduced by Senator Gillibrand and Rep. Slaughter gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service greater authority to regulate nonnative species and prohibit them from being imported or sold in the United States. The scope of “injurious Wildlife Taxon or Taxa” would include all wildlife, including invertebrates. It would also establish an injurious species listing process based on risk to natural resources, and would provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with temporary authority to make emergency designations for wildlife that pose an imminent threat.