President Obama updates Executive Order on invasive species

By Emily Ronis

An invasive European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). ©John Sutton

Last week, President Obama issued an executive order that directs member agencies of the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) to consider human and wildlife health, climate change, and innovations in science and technology when working on issues relevant to invasive species.

Established by a 1999 executive order from President Clinton, NISC is a conglomerate of federal agency leaders that guide national efforts to prevent, remove, and control invasive species in the United States. The new Executive Order expands the reach of NISC; adding the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services as well as several White House offices to the NISC membership.

While the Executive Order largely reaffirms the council’s original directives, the three “emerging priorities” of health, climate change, and technology were added as considerations.

The EO states that member agencies of NISC should consider possible impacts that invasive species might have on human and wildlife health and safety when working on invasive issues, as some invasive species can serve as vectors, causative agents, or reservoirs for diseases. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has been directed to provide a report on human health and safety concerns associated with invasive species, detailing impacts specific to low-income, minority, and tribal communities.

Member agencies shall also consider how climate change may impact the spread and establishment of invasive species. Agencies will also be tasked with incorporating invasive species considerations into federal climate change frameworks and initiatives.

In addition, the order directs NISC agencies to make increased use of new and existing science and technology that can improve invasive species monitoring and control. Agencies should consider opportunities to employ advances in predictive analytics, remote sensing, and cloud computing, as well as tools like citizen science and crowdsourcing to bolster data sets.

The executive order was issued three months after NISC released their 2016-2018 Management Plan that outlined six priority actions the council would take to address invasive species in the next two years. While NISC’s plan and the President’s executive order both emphasize the need to foster and use innovative technology, the order’s directives to consider health and climate change are additions to the plan’s priorities.

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

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