Speech Of Hon. Madeleine Z. Bordallo Of Guam In The House of Representatives
Monday, January 26, 2009

Ms. BORDALLO. Madam Speaker, today I have reintroduced a bill to protect the United States from harm caused by invasive species. In the 110th Congress, I introduced H.R. 6311, the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act, in response to the increasing economic, environmental, and human health threats posed by invasive wildlife species. I am reintroducing this legislation as a proactive approach to combating invasive wildlife species by prohibiting their importation.

Nonnative plants and animals are known by scientists to have been introduced into ecosystems in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the territories. Invasive, nonnative species can harm the economy, environment, other animal species’ health and human health. Such harm ranges, for example, from depreciating farmland property values and loss of irrigation water to increasing spread of disease. Additionally, collapse of buildings, competition with native animals, sport, game, and endangered species losses, habitat alteration, and other ecosystem disturbances, have all resulted from the introduction of certain invasive species.

Scientists and economists generally estimate the cost of damages caused by invasive species in the United States to amount to over $123 billion annually. The risks associated with the introduction and establishment of invasive species, and the costs of mitigation, will continue to rise concomitantly with the expansion of trade and increased speed and frequency of travel around the world and within the United States. The volume of cargo shipped and exchanged worldwide continues to increase and many communities across the United States are experiencing growth in tourism. These factors are reason alone to develop protocols and a system for assessing the risk of all nonnative wildlife species that could be imported or introduced into the United States.

Preventing the introduction of invasive species is a significant challenge and priority for many communities across the country, including my district, Guam. Invasive species, for example, threaten the biodiversity and the ecology of the Florida Everglades, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and the Great Lakes, among other national environmental treasures. On Guam, the brown tree snake has caused the extirpation of many endemic forest birds and lizards. The coqui tree frog and the coconut rhinoceros beetle are the latest species to have entered Guam. Although these species were accidentally introduced, intentional introduction of invasive species is something that can and should be controlled. The bill reintroduced today would protect citizens, the economy, and the environment from imported wildlife species that have the known potential to and that would likely harm our interests in the United States.

Absent a comprehensive federal law addressing the importation of nonnative species, the only protection is provided by the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981. This law authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to designate wildlife species considered “injurious” to humans and prohibits importation of such species into the country. The process, however, to designate a species as injurious can take up to four years, at which point harm has already been done.

The Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act authorizes the establishment by regulation of a risk assessment process to control the importation of wildlife species. The bill adopts a preventative approach by requiring the Secretary of the Interior to develop with public notice and public input a “green list” of species allowed to be imported and a “black list” preventing invasive species from entering the country. Prior to approving a species to be imported, the Secretary must evaluate its potential risk to human, other animal species, and environmental health. Any imports of species, which are not on the “green list,” will be subject to penalties under the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981. The Secretary, however, may permit importation of an animal of such other prohibited species for educational, scientific research, or accredited zoological or aquarium display purposes. Finally, import fees will be collected to cover the costs of the risk assessment process.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this legislation and to strengthen the abilities of the federal government to more effectively manage and prevent the introduction and establishment of nonnative wildlife species.