Bill to improve regulation of invasive species introduced

By Emily Ronis

Java sparrows (Padda oryzivora), native to Indonesia, have been introduced to Hawaii and are designated as an injurious species under the Lacey Act. ©Carla Kishinami

On July 14, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act of 2016.This legislation aims to streamline and improve regulations that prevent the introduction and spread of injurious species – or any species that could cause harm to human or wildlife resources in the United States.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authorization to manage for the prevention and control of injurious species under the Lacey Act. Enacted in 1900, the Lacey Act regulates the importation, sale, and interstate transport of illegally harvested and protected species and provides a framework to regulate the import of injurious plant and wildlife species.

Under the proposed legislation, changes include a provision that would allow any interested party to submit a petition to designate a family, genus, species, subspecies, or hybrid species as injurious. If the petition is deemed complete and presents sufficient evidence for a designation, USFWS would conduct a scientific risk assessment and a risk management determination, submit the proposed rule on the Federal Register, and accept public comments.

The scientific risk assessments and risk management determinations would be based on sound science and would consider multiple factors, including the species’ potential for harm and the effectiveness of possible control measures. When considering proposed designations, the legislation also calls for USFWS to consult with affected stakeholders and related agencies and organizations, including the National Invasive Species Council.

The bill would also give USFWS clear authority to make emergency temporary designations of injurious wildlife that pose an immediate threat as well as the ability to regulate against the introduction and spread of wildlife pathogens and parasites. The ability to regulate wildlife diseases would also be carried out in coordination with other affected stakeholders including federal agencies, state wildlife agencies, and state veterinarians.

This legislation aims to cover some of the costs of injurious species prevention through the establishment of the Injurious Wildlife Prevention Fund, which would take funds from Lacey Act civil and criminal penalties and from the establishment of user fees for live wildlife imports into the U.S.

This legislation faces an uphill battle. It is unclear if either House or Senate bill will get a hearing before the end of the 114th Congress.

Read TWS’ Position Statement on Invasive Plants and Animals.

Emily Ronis is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

Read more of Emily's articles.