House Passes Bill to Curb Invasive Species Devastating National Wildlife Refuges

Invasives Destroying Habitat, Endangering Wildlife

From: American Bird Conservancy

(Washington, D.C., October 23, 2007)Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the bipartisan Refuge Ecology Protection, Assistance, and Immediate Response Act, or REPAIR Act (H.R. 767), that will direct federal resources to states to help eradicate invasive species that are devastating many wildlife refuges. In response to the exploding threat that invasive species pose to the health and abundance of many birds, Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) championed legislation which provides grants to states to identify harmful non-native species and establish priorities for preserving native birds, fish, other wildlife, and their habitats. The REPAIR Act now moves to the Senate where American Bird Conservancy hopes to see quick passage.

"For too long, our National Wildlife Refuges have been overlooked and neglected," Rep. Kind said. "Meanwhile, refuges have faced an unanswered march of invasive plants and animals that have literally taken over, crowding out the very wildlife and habitat the refuges are charged with protecting. By providing grants for both immediate response and long-term eradication of invasives, passage of the REPAIR Act brings us one step closer to giving our National Wildlife Refuge System a vital tool in combating the number one ecological and economic threat to their quality and longevity."

Significant portions of federal lands and waters including National Wildlife Refuges are thoroughly infested with harmful non-native species, which are subsequently able to spread unchecked to adjacent private, public lands, and waters. Invasive species infest over 100 million acres of the American landscape, and each year they continue to spread, at great cost to wildlife and the economy. The cost of control and damages from invasives is estimated at $138 billion annually. Invasives are also one of the main causes of biodiversity loss.

"As the leader of the Refuge Caucus in the House, but also as a Member of Congress with three important National Wildlife Refuges in his district that serve as vital habitat to many species of birds, Rep. Kind understands very well how these delicate ecosystems are thrown out of balance with the introduction of non-native species," said Darin Schroeder, Executive Director of Conservation Advocacy for American Bird Conservancy. "Passage of the REPAIR Act in the House is a crucial first step in stopping the spread of invasives and ensuring that our refuges continue to be home to an amazing array of birds for future generations of Americans to enjoy. American Bird Conservancy appreciates Rep. Kind's leadership on this issue."

The REPAIR Act provides matching grants to federal land and water managers and non-federal partners to conduct control projects that aim to manage harmful non-native species where present, take steps to detect early infestations, and restore native species and habitats. Lastly, it will provide a rapid response capability at the request of a state to make emergency funds available for the control of an incipient invasive species; authorize the National Invasive Species Council; and provide funds for long-term monitoring of project sites. The federal cost share of grants under this bill is 75% on non-federal lands and 100% for work carried out in refuges.

"Unfortunately, under current law, native fish and wildlife are not directly protected from harmful non-native species on federal or any other lands," said Schroeder. "A good example of invasive species harm can be found at Midway Atoll, where non-native golden crown-beard (Verbesina encelioides) is quickly choking the island and further threatening Laysan Albatrosses by limiting reproductive success."