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New Bill Attempts to Expand Protection of American Waterways from Invasive Species
(from September 23, 2002)

Thursday, September 18, marked the introduction of The National Invasive Species Act (NISA) reauthorization bill by a bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill, now known as the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act, together with a related bill on research will strengthen the protections of NISA by covering all of the nation's waters. It will, for the first time require that some organisms be checked for invasiveness before import, establish a program to detect new invasive species, provide the means to respond quickly after detection, and specify research to move technology and policy forward.

"Invasive species cost Americans tens of billions of dollars each year, and can cause widespread economic damage to fish and wildlife, rangelands, croplands, and industry," said UCS Senior Scientist Dr. Phyllis Windle. "Invasives can have devastating impacts on native species and ecosystems. This is a national threat that demands a strong national response."

The National Invasive Species Act (NISA) expires at the end of September. Though the 1996 law was a step in the right direction, it aimed chiefly to prevent unintentional introductions of aquatic species via the ballast water of ships, especially into the Great Lakes.

The introduction of the invasive bill comes at a time when the number of new species reaching the United States has increased exponentially. The expansion of international trade spins the roulette wheel ever faster and increases the chance of introductions that could wreak havoc. The new law would provide considerable support for individual state's efforts, and will give states, regional groups and tribes input into key decisions.

"While disturbing cases like the northern snakehead have raised national awareness of the threat of ecological invaders, the federal government's response is still too slow. And it lags woefully behind states pioneering stricter approaches" Dr. Windle said. "This legislation is long-overdue and urgently needed."