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Invasive Species Council issues call to action

After two years of work, the Washington Invasive Species Council today released its statewide strategic plan, which provides recommendations on actions to battle a variety of pests and plants invading Washington.

Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that ruin businesses and damage the environment. There are roughly 50,000 non-native species in the United States, which cause major environmental damage and losses totaling about $137 billion each year. Washington state spends nearly $15 million a year to prevent, control or eradicate invading species.

In addition to direct control costs, invasive species cause economic harm by damaging many of the state’s key exports and local industries. Species such as sea squirts, the European green crab, the Japanese oyster drill and various pathogens and parasites represent an ongoing threat to the state’s aquaculture industry. The health of Washington’s fruit crops and other agricultural products also are at risk from a variety of pests and other invaders.

“Once introduced, these invaders can spread rapidly if there are no predators or diseases to stop them,” said Bridget Moran, council chair. “They often displace or exterminate native plants and animals by out competing them for food and destroying the places where they live and grow.”

Developed by a diverse council representing state, federal and local agencies, tribes and others, the strategy lays out a road forward to track invading species, improve coordination among those fighting the invasions and engage people in the effort to prevent future invasions.

The council recommends five action steps in its strategic plan for accomplishment in the next three years:

• Compile existing information to assess the level of invasive species.

• Develop a Web-based clearinghouse where people can get information on all existing invasive species.

• Develop a public education program to raise awareness of the potential damage caused by invasive species.

• Improve the tools that agencies have to fight invasive species, including access to emergency funding.

• Develop an early detection and rapid response network.

“The problem in Washington is there are many ways species can enter the state, such as on boat hulls and car wheels, in shipping materials, in ballast water, via animals and by the wind, to name a few,” Moran said. “The strategic plan maps out a road ahead for tackling these issues and managing them efficiently, cost-effectively and strategically.”

Washington is known for its lush and diverse landscapes. From its ocean beaches to its forests, to its grassy prairies, it is home to more than 4,200 plant and animal species, 53 of which are found nowhere else on earth.

“Looking at all the threats and developing a plan of attack will be more efficient and save money and effort over the long-term,” Moran said.

To view copies of the plan, visit the council’s Web site at: www.rco.wa.gov/invasive_species/default.htm.

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