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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington Takes a Major Step to Control Invasive Species

Governor signs bill to create state’s first Invasive Species Council

On Monday, March 20, 2006 Governor Gregoire will take action, signing a bill the state legislature passed this session to create Washington State's first-ever Invasive Species Council.

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Mar 20, 2006

A silent invasion is wiping out biodiversity, causing extinctions, and costing billions of dollars.  On Monday, March 20, 2006 Governor Gregoire will take action, signing a bill the state legislature passed this session to create Washington State’s first-ever Invasive Species Council.

 Joining Oregon and Idaho as states in our region with Invasive Species Councils, Washington is stepping up to the plate to more fully take on this growing, and often hidden, threat to our economy and environment. 

It’s a little known fact that invasive species are responsible for the listing of nearly half of all threatened and endangered species, consume over $100 billion a year in the U.S. alone, are expected to be the leading cause of extinctions in freshwater ecosystems, and are the second cause of biodiversity loss (habitat fragmentation is the first).

 By coordinating existing state, federal, and other programs, as well as by developing a Washington State Invasive Species Management Plan, the Washington Invasive Species Council plans to facilitate coordinated action on early detection of new invasive species outbreaks and to aid rapidly respond to such situations. 

Invasive species, defined by the U.S. Executive Order for the National Invasive Species Council, are a species that is non-native (or alien) to an ecosystem and causes harm to the economy, the environment, or human health.

One of many examples of an invasive species wreaking havoc in our state right now are tunicates (styela clava), or “sea squirts,” native to Japan. “The tunicates can become so abundant that they literally smother commercially grown shellfish and destroy habitat for native species,” notes Scott Smith with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  He continues, noting, “The species is causing serious economic impact to the shellfish industry in eastern Canada, New Zealand, and Europe.”

A veteran of many invasive species battles, Smith notes that having a Council will make a big difference with this, and other, invasions, “Responding effectively to the introduction of invasive sea squirts will require a coordinated response from many different federal and state agencies, and private organizations. No one agency or organization has the resources needed to respond to this economic and environmental threat.” 

“The Washington Invasive Species Council can bring together a coalition that is capable of giving us a fighting chance,” Smith concludes.

*The WA Invasive Species Coalition Steering Committee includes Audubon Washington, Seattle Audubon, Conservation Northwest, The Washington Native Plant Society, The Nature Conservancy, People for Puget Sound, The Mountaineers, University of Washington-Center for Urban Horticulture, University of Washington-SeaGrant.

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