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Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act Introduced

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The U.S. Capitol building. (Credit: Danica Zupic/TWS)
Last week the Senate version of the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act (S. 1153) (the Act) was introduced. The House version (H.R. 996) was introduced in March 2013. The bills would make improvements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) ability to monitor and control potentially invasive imported live fish and wildlife species. The bills are supported by the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species, The Wildlife Society (TWS), and 40 other member organizations, including several Audubon and Izaak Walton League Chapters, various fly fishing organizations, American Rivers, and the National Wildlife Federation. The two bills are almost identical and are updates to similar legislation that was introduced to Congress in May 2012 (HR 5864).

The purpose of the Act is to close the import trade loophole that allowed species like Asian carp and nutria to enter the country. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has control over livestock and plant imports that may potentially harm agricultural entities, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) oversee potentially harmful disease vectors that may infect humans, imports that may harm wildlife and natural resources need stricter oversight within the current regulatory structure. The Act would allow the USFWS to update their screening procedures using rapid assessment technology, to designate temporary (no longer than one year) emergency “injurious” listings, and to allow state governors to petition the USFWS for immediate listing actions. The Act would also allow the listing of non-crustacean and non-mollusk invertebrates, which currently cannot be listed.

The Act would update the process for importation of injurious species that was initially laid out by the Lacey Act of 1900 (but would not technically amend it), and would allow limited power for the USFWS to declare imported live animals as Category 1 or 2 “injurious” species and either prohibit them from import or strictly regulate them. Dividing injurious taxa into two categories allows the USFWS to designate species that have either a high or moderate potential of harm or injury to humans, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, wildlife, or wildlife resources. Those species of moderate potential harm categorized as “injurious 2″ may be imported to qualified institutions, such as universities or certified zoos and aquariums. These two levels of regulation are formatted after similar legal constructs in Israel, Australia, and New Zealand.

The Act would shorten the time required to list a species as injurious from years to months. The USFWS would be required to make species listing determinations within 180 days, and be guided by regulations that would be subject to public comment once developed. During this rulemaking process, the USFWS would create a fee schedule for importers in which 75 percent of the fees would go to program funding with an estimated total of $3 million annually (increased from the current $500,000 and is less than the cost of three full time employees), while 25 percent would fund competitive state grants under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act.

The House version of the bill (H.R. 996) was introduced by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and has 29 cosigners, while S. 1153 was introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Bill Nelson (D-FL). TWS staff, along with other members of the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS), took to Capitol Hill on June 20 and 21, 2013, to meet with staff of Congressional members to discuss the bills and the potential economic impact of invasive species on their states and districts. In addition to the so-called “fly-in” event, a Congressional briefing was held on the morning of June 21 with presentations by Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller, Jerry Rasmussen of Great Lakes United, Peter Jenkins of NECIS, and Bruce Stein of the National Wildlife Federation.

Sources: NECIS Capitol Hill Briefing Press Release (June 17, 2013), NECIS Press Release: Senator Gillibrand Announces Bill to Prevent Future Invasive Species (June 10, 2013), Wall Street Journal (June 7, 2013), USFWS’scurrent list of injurious wildlife species.
View the full article from The Wildlife Society's Wildlife Policy News
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