Such infestations have cost federal, state and local governments tens of millions of dollars annually in efforts to control invasive species.
“It’s a broken system and does not do enough to prevent the spread of invasive species,” Gillibrand said of the Lacey Act.
The proposed legislation would create a new screening system to proactively review requests to import live animals and to restrict those that would pose serious risks should they be allowed to enter the country.
The bill also gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service greater flexibility and authority to make science-based decisions to prohibit or restrict live animals based on potential harmful impact.
The Lacey Act does not require that, before importation, animals be screened for what kind of impact they might have on an ecosystem, for disease they might carry and for the risks they pose to human health or the environment.
That law currently lists 237 species as harmful to the environment, including the zebra mussel. Once on the list, species cannot be transported into the country or across state lines, but the process to add to the list can take up to four years, enough time for invasives to take damaging control in an area it has been introduced into.
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
Gillibrand’s legislation would also give the Fish and Wildlife Service the ability to respond quickly to emergency situations when non-native wildlife threatens a habitat or community, she noted.
Bill Howland, executive director for the Lake Champlain Basin Program, thanked Gillibrand for her efforts and emphasized the importance of a federal presence in fighting the onslaught of invasive species.
He also commented on the oppressively hot day and reminded everyone on hand about the recent series of regional storms and unseasonably high lake level, weather trends that he connected to global climate change.