A Tale of Two Pests: APHIS’ Response Contrasts Greatly

spotted lanternfly

Holly Raguza, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

I have not written previously about two insects that threaten fruit and forest trees in the U.S. – the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) and the velvet longhorned beetle (Trichoferus campestris). APHIS has adopted strangely – and unexplained – different approaches to the two.


Spotted Lanternfly – Pennsylvania Jumps In; APHIS Provides the Funding

The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) was first detected in southeast Pennsylvania in autumn 2014. It is native to China, India, and Vietnam. What was known then about its host range came from experience in Korea, where it had also been introduced. Officials were alarmed because the lanternfly is considered a pest of grapes and peaches – both are major crops in Pennsylvania (Spichiger Update; see reference below).

Currently, outbreaks of the spotted lanternfly are in 74 municipalities in six counties  in the southeastern part of the Commonwealth – covering a total of  829 square miles. In the more than two years since its detection, the spotted lanternfly has not spread to the rest of the Commonwealth or to other states. Authorities therefore believe that the state’s quarantine is having an impact (Spichiger Update & pers. comm.).

Pennsylvania’s authorities believe the lanternfly utilizes about 80 species of plants, especially during the early stages of its development. A monitoring program managed by Dr. Gregory Setliff of Kutztown University (see reference below) has developed a list of 24 putative hosts – including maples, birches, hickories, dogwoods, beech, ash, walnuts, tulip tree, tupelo, sycamore, poplar, peaches and plums, oaks, willows, sassafras, basswood, and elms. Setliff also found that the lanternfly will penetrate into woodlands; it does not stay on the edges.

Adults strongly prefer the widespread invasive species tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima). In fact, it might be necessary for adults to feed on Ailanthus before laying their eggs. However, oviposition can occur on not just a wide variety of plants but also nearly any hard surface (Spichiger).

Officials are optimistic that an approach using trap trees will eradicate the spotted lanternfly. They remove most Ailanthus, then apply a systemic pesticide to the remaining trees to kill adult lanternflies when they feed (Spichiger).

Fortunately, this insect is conspicuous. As a result, 90% of citizen reports of sightings have proven to be accurate (Spichiger). This contrasts greatly with phytosanitary officials’ experience with Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer, and other tree-killing pests.

Scientists in both Pennsylvania and China are looking for natural enemies.

The entire program in Pennsylvania has been funded through a series of Farm Bill grants from APHIS (Spechiger pers. comm.). These began in FY2016, right after the 2014 detection. By FY2017, Farm bill funding  totaled nearly  $2 million; it went to a myriad of entities to:  study lanternfly lifecycles and host preferences; find possible biocontrol agents and chemical treatments; and – especially – for outreach and education. Nearly $1.6 million of these funds went to state agencies in Pennsylvania.


Velvet Longhorned Beetle — States Limp Along; APHIS Support Minimal

velvet longhorned beetle

Christopher Pierce, Bugwood

In contrast to the spotted laternfly, populations of the velvet longhorned beetle (VLB Trichoferus campestris) appear to be more long-standing and more widely spread. It was first found in 2010 in Utah. Now, it has been detected 15 separate times in Quebec and 11 U.S. states, according to Wu et al. 2017 and websites listed below. States specifically mentioned by sources include Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Most are of single or a few beetles – although detections are sometimes repeated over several years – e.g., in Minnesota.

In contrast, the outbreak in Utah appears to be established and growing. The number of beetles detected has exploded from 4 in 2010 to 1,863 in 2015 .

Like so many other invaders, this beetle is known to be native to East and Central Asia.

The host range is still being studied. Hosts are thought to include more than 40 genera, including apple; cherry and peach; maple; birch; mulberry and paper mulberry; beech; ash; honey locust; mountain ash; willow; and cut wood of spruce and pine.

Like other woodborers, the velvet longhorned beetle has often been intercepted in wood packaging (see my earlier blogs. There have been 29 interceptions of the Trichferous genus over 3 years. Some of the newly established populations – such as Utah’s outbreak – are tied to specific shipments in which wood packaging was insect-infested (Wu et al. 2017).

VLB has also been detected in imported rustic furniture – probably because the beetle is apparently much more tolerant of tunneling in dry wood than other Cerambycids.  In some pieces, insect activity was not detected until 18 months after the furniture was purchased. In 2016 a Minnesota homeowner discovered a beetle emerging from bark-covered furniture that she had purchased more than a year earlier. Furniture from this shipment was shipped to at least 10 other states [Mark Abrahamson, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, pers. comm. February 16, 2017]. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, APHIS, and other State departments of Agriculture are working with the furniture seller to recover and destroy all infested furniture.

Detection of the velvet longhorned beetle has been hampered by the absence of a good lure for traps.  Dr. Ann Ray of Xavier University in Ohio has isolated and identified a possible lure but needs another field season to determine the right amount of pheromone for each trap. While Dr. Ray’s earlier work had been funded by APHIS through its Section 10007 program, APHIS chose not to fund the final stage of testing in the FY2017 Farm Bill grant program. Indeed, no VLB programs were funded this year.

This contrasts sharply with APHIS’ continued engagement with the spotted lanternfly.

The extent of damage to fruit trees caused by the velvet longhorned beetle has been difficult to determine (Ray; see reference below). Perhaps for this reason, APHIS has not adopted an official stance on whether the beetle is “established” in the United States. Thus, five years after the insect was detected for a second year in Utah, the agency cannot make up its mind how great the threat is and what the agency’s response should be.

If the velvet longhorned beetle turns out to be highly damaging, eradicating it will have become increasingly difficult during the years that APHIS has pondered what to do.


See also http://ag.utah.gov/documents/Insect_Velvet_Longhorn_Beetle.pdf



Ray, Annie. Evaluation of lure and trap design for monitoring the velvet longhorned beetle Trichoferus campestris. XXVIII USDA Interagnecy Research Forum on Invasive Species January 10 -13, 2017.

Setliff, Gregory P. Investigating the host range of the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) in southeastern Pennsylvania. XXVIII USDA Interagnecy Research Forum on Invasive Species January 10 -13, 2017.

Spichiger, Sven-Erik. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Update on spotted lanternfly program in Pennsylvania. XXVIII USDA Interagnecy Research Forum on Invasive Species January 10 -13, 2017.

Wu,Y., N.F. Trepanowski, J.J. Molongoski, P.F. Reagel, S.W. Lingafelter, H. Nadel1, S.W. Myers & A.M. Ray. 2017. Identification of wood-boring beetles (Cerambycidae and Buprestidae) intercepted in trade-associated solid wood packaging material using DNA barcoding and morphology


We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.


Posted by Faith Campbell

New Secretary of Interior Pledges to Support Invasive Species Efforts — Let’s Ask USDA Secretary to do the Same!

Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke

During his confirmation hearing Ryan Zinke, nominated to be the new Secretary of Interior, committed to several senators that he would explore ways to better manage invasive species on federal lands – especially in National parks – and to strengthen the National Invasive Species Council (NISC).

Mr. Zinke is currently a Congressional Representative from Montana. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) pressed him on invasive species issues during the hearing, focusing on the threat to the Great Lakes of carp and other aquatic species. Also, Senators Al Franken (MN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Mazie K. Hirono (HI) asked about invasive species in written questions submitted to the nominee.

Mr. Zinke answered most questions the same way:  He shares the Senator’s concern, especially since  Montana has significant invasive species problems. Also, he thinks it is critical that federal land managers be encouraged and empowered to be good neighbors in controlling invasive species in cooperation with adjacent private land owners. …  Specifically he wants to explore ways to implement the Early Detection Rapid Response Framework adopted by NISC in 2016.


* Sen. Franken included a single question on bioinvaders among a long list of questions on other topics. He mentioned the emerald ash borer as one example of a damaging invader in Minnesota. Senator Franken asked Mr. Zinke:

1) what steps he would take to enhance invasive species control on public lands

See paragraph above for Mr. Zinke’s answer.

2) whether he would enforce the Lacey Act and explore ways to strengthen it.

Mr. Zinke said he would enforce the law. He is aware that there is broad bipartisan frustration with the lack of an efficient process for listing injurious species under the Act. He would ask the Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend ways to improve its implementation. If legislative changes might be helpful, he would be pleased to have that conversation with the Congress.


* Sen. Manchin’s first question (!) asked how Mr. Zinke might strengthen NISC to help manage invaders across multiple types of land ownership. See Mr. Zinke’s frequent reference to his Montana experience above for his answer.


* Sen. Hirono asked five questions pertaining to invasive species! Her first question concerned steps to protect National parks (especially in Hawaii) from bioinvasion. Here, Mr. Zinke gave his usual response but added: “I am especially concerned that Hawaii’s unique flora and fauna are vulnerable to invasive species. I would not want to see invasive species push any of these unique plants and animals onto the Endangered Species list. Once confirmed, I will ask the National Park Service to present me with options for better protecting our national parks from invasive species.”


Ms. Hirono also asked about strengthening NISC. Mr. Zinke responded as follows: “…, I will explore ways to improve the operations of the National Invasive Species Council, and actively engage with the Secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture to get off to a strong start on this issue. … We also need to create a more effective linkage between the National Invasive Species Council policy operation in Washington, DC, and the on the ground federal land managers across the country who deal with invasive species on a daily basis…”


Also, Sen. Hirono asked for Mr. Zinke to help Hawai`i and other U.S. Pacific islands to counter the spread of invasive species through movement of military equipment. Mr. Zinke said he would work to enhance coordination with the Department of Defense and the Pacific island communities to reduce the risks posed by invasive species. … explore how we may implement the recent framework for early detection and rapid response …


Mr. Zinke also promised to work with Senator Hirono on several issues under Interior jurisdiction that are priorities for Hawai`i, among them invasive species.



What We Should Ask the new President & Congress to Do re: Invasive Species

While there are many opportunities for the Congress to strengthen U.S. invasive species programs (see my blog from December 31 here, the most important activity NOW is the confirmation of Sonny Perdue as Secretary of Agriculture. Contact your Senators and urge them to ask Governor Perdue how he will address invasive species challenges.

USDA Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue

Possible questions:

Q: How serious do you think is the threat to American natural resources from invasive (non-native) insects, pathogens, and plants? Can you suggest steps you would take to strengthen the efforts of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) aimed at controlling introduction and spread of such bioinvaders into the United States?

Q: The principal legal authority for preventing introductions of invasive plants and plant pests is the Plant Protection Act. The PPA provides strong authority but its implementation has been hampered by internal USDA decisions. How would you ensure that the Department corrects these problems and actively enforces its regulations aimed at ensuring the health and productivity of America’s plant resources?

  • In recent years, more than 20 previously undetected plant pests have been detected in the country each year. Hundreds of shipments of goods entering the country each year contain plant pests. What strategies would you promote to reduce the introduction, spread, and impacts of invasive species?

Q: Given the ever-tightening budget allocated to agencies responsible for addressing invasive species threats, what steps would you take to ensure that our country does not suffer waves of new invasions?

If you have a working relationship with your Senators and believe they understand the invasive species issue fairly well, you might want to suggest more detailed questions:

Q: As you know, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is responsible for preventing introduction and spread of plant pests.

  • In some cases, APHIS has been hesitant to use its authority to penalize importers which routinely receive shipments that violate plant pest (phytosanitary) regulations. [You might cite my blog from last week  which illustrates examples pertaining to wood packaging.] Will you instruct APHIS to use its legal authority to impose civil penalties to deter continuing violations?


  • Trying to prevent pest introductions by increasing the percentage of shipments that are inspected visually will not be effective in many cases. This is true especially with regard to one of the most important pathways by which plant pests are introduced – imports of living plant material such as nursery stock. APHIS began updating its regulations governing plant imports nearly four years ago, but the proposed new regulations have been not been finalized. Will you look into the reasons for delay and take steps to update these regulations to focus on pathway cleanliness rather than continue to rely on ineffective visual inspections?

Q: Urban forests across the country are under threat from a growing number of non-native or introduced insect pests. Examples include the emerald ash borer – now found in 27 states; Asian longhorned beetle – which threatens a large proportion of urban trees across the country; and polyphagous and Kuroshio shot hole borers – killing many trees in southern California.

Urban forests are at particularly high risk of infestation by non-native pests because they are growing near ports and other transportation hubs where such pests are first introduced. Furthermore, each individual tree in an urban setting provides important benefits in the form of shade, moderation of storm water runoff, abatement of air pollutants, enhanced property values, and neighborhood amenities.

  • Will you fully utilize the authorities under the Plant Protection Act to help ensure the health and productivity of America’s urban forests?
  • [If you have not already suggested the questions outlined above re: wood packaging and other pathways, you might suggest them in this context.]


The Secretary of Agriculture also oversees the Forest Service. Pertinent questions:

Q: Invasives are as great a threat to eastern forests as wildfires are in the West. Despite the growing damage and ecological destruction we are witnessing the budgets for research on strategies to minimize these bioinvaders’ impacts are actually falling. How will you work to provide solutions to this quandary?

As I said in my blog at the end of December, what is missing is a political demand for action – and support for necessary staff and funding. Agencies under the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior bear most of the responsibility for managing invasive species. As long as these officials are not being pressed by key Congressional committees, the media, and key stakeholders to take more aggressive and effective action to curtail species introductions and suppress established populations of bioinvaders, they will continue to focus their attention on issues that do generate these kinds of political pressure.

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.


Wood Packaging – Again! 11 years after ISPM#15, problems persist …


ALB pupa; Thomas B. Denholm, New Jersey Department of Agriculture; bugwood.org

As I have noted in earlier fact sheets and blogs, wood packaging (crates, pallets, etc.) has been a major pathway for introductions of highly damaging wood-boring pests since at least the early 1990s. (See Figure 2a in Aukema et al. 2010; reference given at end of blog.)


This rise in introductions followed the rapid increase in use of shipping containers – as described in Levinson’s book The Box (reference below). Levinson notes that shipping capacity increase fourfold during the decade of the 1970s, reaching 10 million tons in 1980. (See also my blog from August 2015 here). A second factor was the U.S. opening trade with China in 1979. Since in those years – before establishment of more sophisticated detection tools – a pest was often present for close to a decade before being detected, it is not surprising that detections of woodboring pests began their rise around 1990.


February 2017 marks 11 years since the international standard (ISPM#15) was put into effect by the United States and 17 years after the U.S. and Canada began requiring China to treat its wood packaging. Nevertheless, numerous shipments containing wood packaging that does not comply with the regulations continue to arrive at our borders – and to bring pests.


A study by scientists and economists (Haack et al. 2014; reference below) analyzed detection data from the U.S. and other countries in order to calculate the reduction in pest risk associated with wood packaging following adoption of ISPM#15. They concluded that one tenth of one percent of the wood packaging entering the U.S. after adoption of ISPM#15 still contained a tree-killing pest. This sounds like a small risk. However, the U.S. imported approximately 25 million shipping containers in 2013 – and presumably similar numbers in more recent years. It has been estimated in the past that wood packaging is used in just over half of these containers. Therefore, even if merely 1/10th of 1% of the wood packaging in these shipments contained a tree-killing pest, 13,000 containers harboring pests probably enter the country each year. That is 35 potential pest arrivals each day.


Interception records compiled by USDA APHIS and the DHS Bureau of Customs and Border Protection clearly show that wood packaging infested with pests continued to arrive in recent years – including in 2016.


Over a period of seven years – Fiscal Years 2010 through 2016 – CBP detected more than 20,700 shipments with wood packaging that did not comply with ISPM#15. While most of the non-compliances represented wood packaging that lacked the required mark showing treatment per ISPM#15, in nearly 5,000 cases the wood packaging actually harbored a pest in a regulated taxonomic group (see Customs presentation at the Continental Dialogue here).


Customs inspectors at 11 ports (listed at end of blog) have been sending intercepted wood packaging containing insect larvae to APHIS for study. APHIS has also sent to me its record of interceptions for the period FYs 2011 – 2016.


The APHIS interception database contained 2,547 records for insect detections. The insects belonged to more than 20 families. Families with the highest numbers of detections were Cerambycids – 25% of total; Curculionidae – 23% (includes Dendroctonus, Ips, Orthotomicus, Scolytinae, Xyleborus, Euwallacea); Scolytidae – 17%  (includes true weevils such as elm bark beetles); Buprestids – 11%; and Bostrichidae – 3%. Not all of the insects in these groups pose a threat to North American plant species.

piece of wood packaging with Cerambycid larva; detected in Oregon
piece of wood packaging with Cerambycid larva; detected in Oregon

The samples sent by CBP to APHIS are limited largely to the families Cerambycidae (the family containing the Asian longhorned beetle) and Buprestidae (the family containing the emerald ash borer). This dataset contains 1,068 insects, obtained over the period April 2012 through August 2016 from 786 separate interceptions of non-compliant wood packaging. The sample is not from a random set of ports – four of the seven entry points are on the Mexican border, and the proportion was even higher in the early years of the study.


The APHIS interception database reports pests detected in wood packaging from dozens of countries. The countries of origin with the highest numbers of shipments detected to have pests present were Mexico, China, Italy, and Costa Rica. These numbers reflect in part import volumes. The U.S. imports huge volumes of goods from both Mexico and China. (Our second largest trade partner is Canada; the U.S. and Canada have exempted wood packaging moving between the two countries from the requirement that it comply with ISPM#15. Neither country inspects wood packaging from the other country at even the low rate of inspection applied to wood packaging coming from Mexico or overseas.)


The CBP-APHIS database includes pests found in wood packaging from 39 countries, including 212 shipments from Europe; 130 shipments from Asia; and 341 shipments from the Americas – almost exclusively Mexico.


APHIS analysts point out that the pests from Mexico might pose a lower risk since some proportion of them are probably species shared between our two countries. (However, several woodborers from Mexico are killing trees in the U.S. – e.g., goldspotted oak borer, walnut twig beetle, and soapberry borer. These species are described briefly here. These insects were probably introduced to vulnerable parts of the U.S. in firewood rather than wood packaging.)


As always (see the briefs here as well as various articles by Haack and Cavey), imports of heavy objects are associated with wood packaging found to be infested with insects: metal and machine parts, tiles, decorative stone. Imports of fruits and vegetables rank high because of the large number of interceptions in wood packaging from Mexico.


Comparing the estimate by Haack et al. 2014 with the CBP data indicates that Customs is detecting about 6% of all pest-infested shipments. I do not believe that increasing the inspection workforce and effort will result in substantial improvement in this rate.


On average, 26% of infested wood pieces detected by CBP were found in wood that had been treated according to ISPM#15 requirements (if we believe the ISPM#15 stamp on the wood). Does this indicate fraud? Or is the problem accidental misapplication of the treatments? Or are the treatments less effective than hoped? APHIS researchers have found that larvae from wood subject to methyl bromide fumigation were more likely to survive to adulthood than those intercepted in wood that had been heat treated. Does this indicate that methyl bromide fumigation is a less effective treatment?


CBP staff reported that only about 30 import shipments (out of nearly 21,000 shipments found to be in  violation of ISPM#15 requirements) have received a financial penalty. CBP staff cite two reasons for the low penalty rate:

  1. USDA policy requires that an importer be caught 5 times in a year with non-compliant wood packaging before authorizing a fine; and
  2. APHIS has not designated SWPM as a high-risk commodity


What Can Be Done to Slow or Eliminate this Pathway?


Our goal should be to hold foreign suppliers responsible for complying with ISPM#15. One approach is to penalize violators. APHIS and Customs might

  • Prohibit imports in packaging made from solid wood (boards, 4 x 4s, etc.) from foreign suppliers which have a record of repeated violations over the 11 years ISPM#15 has been in effect (17 years for exporters from Hong Kong & mainland China). Officials should allow continued imports from those same suppliers as long as they are contained in packaging made from other types of materials, including plastic, metals, fiberboards …
  • Fine an importer for each new shipment found to be out of compliance with ISPM#15 in cases when the foreign supplier of that shipment has a record of repeated violations.


There would need to be a severe penalty to deter foreign suppliers from simply changing their names or taking other steps to escape being associated with their violation record.


At the same time, the agencies should work with NGOs and importers to promote creation of an industry certification program that would recognize and reward importers who have voluntarily undertaken actions aimed at voluntarily exceeding ISPM#15 requirements so as to provide a higher level of protection against invasive species that would otherwise potentially be introduced into the United States.


What You Can Do


  • Tell your member of Congress and Senators that you are worried that our trees are still being put at risk by insects arriving in wood packaging. Ask them to urge the new Secretary of Agriculture (Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia) to take the actions outlined above in order to curtail introductions of additional tree-killing pests.


  • Talk to your friends and neighbors & civic organizations about the threat to our trees. Ask them to join you in communicating these concerns to their Congressional representatives and Senators.


  • Write letters to the editors of your local newspaper or TV news station.


Use your knowledge about pests threatening trees in your state or locality in your communications!


Ports that have sent specimens to APHIS lab: Seattle, Long Beach, San Diego, Laredo, Hildago,  Houston, Miami, Port Everglades, Chicago, Detroit


 Aukema, J.E., D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle, A.M. Liebhold, K. Britton, & S.J. Frankel. 2010. Historical Accumulation of Nonindigenous Forest Pests in the Continental United States. Bioscience. December 2010 / Vol. 60 No. 11

Haack, R. A., K. O. Britton, E. G. Brockerhoff, J. F. Cavey, L. J. Garrett, M. Kimberley, F. Lowenstein, A. Nuding, L. J. Olson, J. Turner, and K. N. Vasilaky. 2014. Effectiveness of the international phytosanitary standard ISPM no. 15 on reducing wood borer infestation rates in wood packaging material entering the United States. Plos One 9:e96611.

Levinson, M. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger Princeton University Press 2008


We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.


Posted by Faith Campbell


Public attitudes about tree-killing pests

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has carried out telephone surveys of eligible voters to determine their attitudes about trees and forests and threats to them over 11 years – in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2016. Leigh Greenwood will present these finding during a webinar on Friday 27 January. Go here to learn more and register for the webinar.


champion green ashchampion dead

Michigan champion ash before & after being killed by emerald ash borer

While those surveyed consistently ranked economic concerns as more important than environmental ones, still they have been aware of threat from forest insects and diseases.

In 2016, 23% to 26% of respondents said that they considered diseases or insects that kill trees a “very serious” problem. Notably, these concerns were equal to those expressed about fires that destroy property and forests.

Gardening, hiking, and wildlife viewing are popular activities, engaged in by half or more of the respondents. Only 35% of respondents fish; only 15% hunt.

The sources of information on forest health issues that are most trusted by survey respondents have remained steady across regions and years:

  • park “rangers” rank first, with 89% of respondents ranking them as “believable”;
  • the state division of forestry ranks second, with 84% of respondents saying it is “believable”;
  • the USDA Forest Service and scientists are tied for third, with 82% of respondents saying each is “believable”;
  • also highly trusted (trusted by more than 70% of respondents) were the State Department of Agriculture, a local forester, and conservation organizations.


The public’s level of familiarity with the concept of forest pests nationwide has been between 53% and 59% of respondents since the Conservancy began polling in 2005. Levels of awareness were higher in 2010 than in either 2005 or 2016 –probably because of media attention to the emerald ash borer.


The specific pests asked about in the polls with the highest levels of awareness have remained Dutch elm disease and European gypsy moth – with somewhat over half the respondents saying they have heard of the problem. About a quarter of respondents have heard something about chestnut blight.


Levels of awareness have changed significantly over time for some regions and some pests.

In 2016, 50% of respondents in the “east north central” region HAVE NOT heard of the Asian longhorned beetle. This contrasts with 2010, when only 18% of respondents in the region said they had not heard about ALB. Perhaps this decline in awareness is because the outbreak in Clermont County Ohio is in a semirural area and does not get the media coverage that earlier outbreaks in cities did. Alternatively, because these polls are conducted in a population proportional sample, it may be that urban residents are not aware while rural residents (in the affected area) are indeed aware but are not captured in the sampling methodology.

Similarly, in 2016 more than a third of respondents in New England said they had not heard about the ALB; this lack of awareness is greater than the quarter who said they had not heard about the insect in 2010. Still, the number of people in the region who had “heard quite a bit about it” has held steady at one-third of respondents. In the Northeast more broadly, 48% in 2016 said they had not heard about ALB, compared to 42% in 2010.

Regarding the emerald ash borer, its spread has apparently led to greater awareness in the South. By 2016, 28% of respondents in the South have heard of it — compared to 18% in 2010. Awareness of EAB has remained steady in the East North Central region – at 76% of respondents. In 2005, when three of the five states in the region were polled, awareness was far lower – 57% said they had never heard of it.

Poll results showed that the proportion of respondents nation-wide who were “extremely or very concerned about non-native forest pests and diseases has declined from 54% in 2010 to 40% in 2016. While the poll does not inform us why this change has occurred, one probable explanation is that the emerald ash borer infestation is no longer front page news in most regions.

Levels of concern are highest in major cities and rural areas.

One of the purposes of the Conservancy’s polling is to measure the effectiveness of the organization’s efforts to educate campers and others about the pest risk associated with firewood. (Visit www.dontmovefirewood.org to see the extensive outreach program and how you can become involved.)  Consequently, pollsters paid considerable attention to attitudes about using and moving firewood. In 2016, 47% of respondents say they never burn firewood at home; a different 51% say they never burn firewood when travelling away from home.

Of those who burn firewood at home or outdoors, few now admit to moving firewood – especially in the Northeast and Midwest. In those two regions, 70% plus say they never move it. Those who do move firewood say they move it shorter distances (mostly less than 50 miles).

The polls show the impact of outreach efforts nationwide. In the Northeast and Midwest, those who admit to moving firewood several times have dropped by about half. Indeed, the nation-wide proportion of respondents who admit to moving firewood in 2016 is below the proportion in the most affected region in 2007.

Across the country, 37% have heard that they should not move firewood – slightly above the 34% in 2010. Respondents who have heard the firewood message say this information has made them much less likely to move firewood.

However, there are huge regional differences. In the Midwest (reported as two subregions), between 56% and 70% have heard the firewood message. In New England, 49% of respondents have heard the message. In the Mid-Atlantic region, 40% remember having heard a message about not moving firewood. However, in the South and in the Pacific states, only 30% or fewer of respondents remember having seen or heard a message about firewood. In Rocky Mountain states, the proportion falls to 11%!!!. [ insert the graph? Would it be readable?]

The overwhelming majority of respondents say they are willing to buy firewood where they will burn it after hearing information about pest threat. This proportion was 84% in 2016 – although this is below the  90% who responded positively in 2005.


Types of information that respondents say they are most likely to pay attention to:

  • Brochure at a park                                         90% say would pay attention
  • Information from friend or neighbor        88%
  • Billboard on highway                                    84%
  • Radio ad                                                           78%
  • Email at time of reserving campground             77%  (major program effort)
  • Label on firewood package                            77%  (but is this information seen too late – e.g., after people have already arrived with wood in tow?)
  • Ad on TV                                                       75%
  • Booth at special event or farmers’ market 75%  (DMF has had such booths for years)

Lower proportions said they would pay attention to such other outreach methods as an article in a local newspaper, article in utility bill mailing or e-newsletter, advertisement in outdoor outfitter catalog or newspaper … or even website focused on firewood consumers. Responses vary by age groups. Predictably, digital media categories perform more persuasively in the younger demographics.

The preferred message is “buy it where you burn it.” The very similar “buy local, burn local” is also well accepted by the public according to the polling results, but due to its more limited use area (mostly Vermont and Canada at this time) the campaign recommends using Buy It Where You Burn It to be consistent.


  • Use the slogan that the public prefers – when practical; the “local” message might not fit if the state’s or agency’s program requires that the wood be treat or either allows or encourages gathering of downed wood for the fire.
  • Outreach is working – the public is changing its behavior to move firewood less frequently and for shorter distances.
  • Use trusted messengers and outlets/places where people are receptive.
  • Awareness is temporary; it fades over time — so don’t stop putting the message out!!!!

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

Posted by Faith Campbell

Sudden Oak Death – the situation worsened in 2016

Moltzan USFS

oak tree infected by P. ramorum; photo by Bruce Moltzan, USDA Forest Service


Sudden oak death (caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum) might seem to be an old story – after all, mortality of oaks and other trees in the San Francisco Bay area was first noted 20 years ago. See the information here or here  or my earlier blogs at http://www.nivemnic.us/2016/04/; http://www.nivemnic.us/2016/02/; http://www.nivemnic.us/2015/08/; and http://www.nivemnic.us/2015/07/

Unfortunately, the story is very much alive – and the situation is getting worse.

In 2016, infected trees were detected in new sites in California. See the November 2016 California Oak Mortality Task Force (COMTF) Newsletter here.

Based on a “SOD Blitz” using surveys by local people, (summarized in the COMTF newsletter), the pathogen has expanded substantially in areas that received adequate moisture in winter/spring 2016.

  • For the first time, ramorum was detected in San Luis Obispo County. This is the southern-most county with wildland detections in the state. Nor is it a small single outbreak; the SOD Blitz identified the pathogen on California bay laurel at approximately eight locations throughout the county. The infestations appear to be recent, since oaks were not found to be infected.
  • New outbreaks were detected along the central and southern coasts of Mendocino County (north of the San Francisco Bay area).


Infected trees were also detected in areas where the pathogen activity had subsided as a result of the state’s recent drought, including:

  • Northern and central Sonoma County and Napa Valley.
  • Infection rates have increased in Marin County.
  • San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
  • Infection rates in Big Sur in Monterey County increased by 27%.
  • There have been sharp increases in infection in some areas that previously were marginally affected, g., western San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.


In Oregon, the area infested by sudden oak death has been expanding since at least 2014. In 2015, 18 new outbreaks were detected. In 2016, another 65 new outbreaks were found. All are within the state’s quarantine area (which was doubled in size in 2015; it now covers nearly one-third of Curry County). Oregon officials believe this increase is a consequence of the combination of a wet/mild winter and spring and the establishment of the state-designated “Generally Infested Area” (58 square miles) where disease treatment is no longer required.


EU1 strain in forests in Oregon

Oregon has determined that the presence of the EU1 lineage of Phytophthora ramorum is more widespread than originally known. (My blog of August 2015 described the initial finding of a single tanoak infected by this lineage in 2015 and the importance of finding a genetically different form of the pathogen in the wild in North America.)  As of late 2016, scientists had identified a second outbreak of the EU1 pathogen – on 1 grand fir seedling and 12 tanoaks. Additional trees might be infected; results were pending for another grand fir and 11 additional tanoaks. This outbreak was detected through follow-up on a stream bait detection. This new EU1 infestation is located between the 2015 EU1-positive tanoak site and a now closed ornamental nursery, which, based on molecular testing, was the probable source of the 2015 EU1 infestation. The new EU1 infestation was top priority for treatment in the fall; these activities have already begun (Information from Sarah Navarro, pathologist for Oregon Department of Forestry).


While  sudden oak death has already killed more than 3 million tanoaks reaching from Monterey County north into Oregon, large areas occupied by tanoaks are still not infested. It is important to slow the spread of this pathogen.


The spreading devastation is particularly galling since scientists have shown than an aggressive, well-funded containment effort begun in 2002 could have measurably slowed spread of the disease. See reference and news report below.






Cunniffe, N.J., R.C. Cobb, R.K. Meentemeyer, D.M. Rizzo, and C.A. Gilligan. Modeling when, where, and how to manage a forest epidemic, motivated by SOD in CalifPNAS, May 2016 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1602153113


We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

Lack of Regulation and Funding Shortfalls Raise Probability of Pests’ Spread

Photo by John Boland – willows killed by Kuroshio shot hole borer, Tijuana River, California


The polyphagous (PSHB) and Kuroshio (KSHB) shot hole borers are causing havoc in riparian and planted landscapes in four counties in southern California and are spreading north. (For current information go here or here .

As I described in a blog last July, the two insects are known to attack hundreds of tree species; at least 40 are reproductive hosts. Trees known to support PSHB include box elder, big leaf maple, California sycamore, willows, cottonwoods, and several California oaks. The insect-fungi combinations threaten more than a third of trees in the urban forests in southern California, with a cost for the trees’ removal and replacement estimated at $36 billion. Costs and hosts are discussed more fully in the July blog linked to above.


The High Cost of Management

 Already, UC Irvine has spent close to $2 million to manage trees on campus that have been attacked.

Orange County has both polyphygous and Kuroshio shot hole borers. One agency – Orange County parks – has spent $1.7 million on shot hole borer surveys, tree inventory, public outreach materials, staff training, and some research. The parks agency is trying to engage other county agencies, such as Public Works and Waste & Recycling to get their help. For example, Public Works is putting together a tree ordinance with enforceable provisions.


While scientists have not yet published their analysis of the vulnerability of forest areas in other parts of the country, we do know that some reproductive hosts are widespread across the country — box elder, sweet gum, Japanese wisteria, and tree of heaven. Less is known about the hosts for Kuroshio shot hole borer. For a full list of known hosts, visit the two sources linked to in the first paragraph.


How Agencies Should Respond to this Threat

The shot hole borers and associated fungi clearly represent serious threats to urban, rural, and wildland forests across California and probably much of the rest of the country. Clearly it is important that we:

  • Increase our understanding of these insects and their associated fungi – including their possible geographic and host ranges;
  • Use this evolving understanding to develop detection tools; and
  • Use this evolving understanding to develop methods to slow their spread or to protect trees.


So what is being done? Individuals – academics; staff of local, state, and federal agencies; and concerned conservationists – are working hard. But they get little support from state or federal phytosanitary agencies.


The Need for New State and Federal Regulations

I have written earlier about the refusal of California Department of Food and Agriculture to either designate the polyphagous and Kuroshio shot hole borers as quarantine pests [] or to regulate movement of firewood – one of the major pathways for spread of the insects.


Nor has USDA APHIS designated the insects and their fungi as quarantine pests. The apparent explanation for the agency’s inaction is the considerable taxonomic confusion about the beetles and the possibility that the insects are already established elsewhere in the U.S. In addition, since the two shot hole borers are currently known only from California, APHIS is unlikely to take action unless California does.  However, there is no legal requirement that APHIS defer to the state on this matter.


The Results of Funding and Regulatory Shortfalls

 Both CDFA and APHIS are providing some funds to support research and development. Research on  detection, spread, and possible biocontrols — for the insects or fungi — have received a total of $385,000 in FY16 and $419,549 in FY17 from a grant program operated under the USDA Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program (Farm Bill Sec. 10007). Still, the principal investigators and affected county, state, and federal agencies are scrambling to fill funding gaps – projects that will improve our understanding and put forward practical advice.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and Natural Communities Coalition (NCC) of Orange County are supporting research by Akif Eskalen and Shannon Lynch of UC Riverside on both (a) biocontrol using endophytes naturally occurring in various host tree species and (b) models to predict the disease’ behavior in native vegetation. Dr. Eskalen and Dr. John Kabashima of Orange County Cooperative Extension are seeking funds to support additional work on outreach and extension for advisors, land managers, master gardeners and homeowners.

Santa Barbara County officials – where at least one of the shot hole borer species was recently detected – are struggling to fund an expanded trap program to detect the insects. The CDFA does have traps deployed but UC Santa Barbara is considering launching a trapping program in riparian areas (where many of the host trees play especially important ecological roles). Officials are still not certain which species of insect is present (they think it is KSHB) and whether the beetles are carrying the typical fungal complex or something novel.

In the past, some of the work on the shot hole borers has been funded by associations of avocado growers. However, it is now clear that the beetle attacks only avocado tree branches, so it does not kill the tree. No longer facing a dire threat to their industry, the avocado commission is no longer funding research work on this pest-disease complex.

The experts – Dr. Eskalen for the fungi and his colleague Dr. Richard Stouthamer for the insects – have no funds to process samples sent to their laboratories for the confirmation of the beetles and fungi. They might soon have to charge fees for each sample – thereby discouraging collections that track each species’ spread and find new introductions.

In the absence of CDFA designation of the shot hole borers as regulated pests, neither state nor county agencies have a firm foundation on which to base regulations to curtail movement of firewood, green waste, or other pathways by which these pests can be spread to new areas.


Conservation Agencies are Cobbling Together Responses As Best They Can

Southern California staff of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife agency, responding to the damage caused by the Kuroshio shot hole borer in the Tijuana River estuary (described here and here), have formed a coalition to develop strategies for natural resource and urban forestry settings and ensure coordination. Natural resource agencies have access to some funding sources, such as Natural Communities Coalition (NCC) grants and funding for management of invasive species in protected habitats.

Southern California staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are seeking grants from internal agency sources – citing the threat to riparian-dependent wildlife, especially the endangered Least Bell’s vireo.

Santa Monica National Recreation Area and the three National forests in the vicinity – the Angeles, Cleveland, and San Bernardino National forests – have taken actions that should help prevent the shot hole borers’ introduction via firewood.  Santa Monica Recreation Area does not allow wood fires, only charcoal (this action probably is in response to the high fire danger in the area rather than the pests specifically). The National forests’ webpages on camping include a graphic with the statements “Buy It Where You Burn It” and “Be aware that firewood can harbor insects and diseases; transporting it can move these pests to new locations.”  (See my earlier blog about firewood alerts on National forests, parks, etc. here).


What You Can Do


Many Californians are pushing for action … they need our help! If you live in California, contact your state legislators. If you live elsewhere, your forests are also at risk from California’s failure to act. So, if you know someone who lives there, ask that person to contact his/her legislators. Ask the legislators to (a) demand state designation of PSHB, KSHB, and GSOB as quarantine pests and adoption of state firewood regulations and (b) support funding for these programs.


The U.S. Congress has a role in convincing APHIS to play a bigger role. Contact your federal Senators and Member of Congress and urge them to ask USDA APHIS to regulate movement of firewood, green waste, and nursery stock from areas infested by the polyphagous or Kuroshio shot hole borers and goldspotted oak borer.

President Trump will soon propose funding levels for government programs, including APHIS’ “tree and wood pest” program. Please keep informed about these proposals – and contact your Congressional representative to express support for adequate funding. Contact me using the “Contact us” button on our website if you wish to receive informative alerts about the upcoming appropriations process.


Posted by Faith Campbell


We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

The New Year – Where We Are & What Needs to be Done


dying ash tree, Fairfax County, Virginia; photo by F.T. Campbell

According to Aukema et al. 2010 (see references at the end of this blog), by the first decade of the 21st Century, the number of non-native insects and pathogens damaging our forests had risen to at least 475.  Sixty-two of the insects, and all of the 17 pathogens, were judged to have “high impact”, with both economic and ecological ramifications. More than 181 exotic insects that feed on woody plants are established in Canada (USDA APHIS 2009). Especially hard-hit is the eastern deciduous broadleaf forest — there is an exotic pest threat to nearly every dominant tree species in this ecosystem type.

The situation is actually worse than this article and others based on it depict. Aukema et al. 2010 did not include several highly damaging forest pests that are native to regions of North America (e.g., goldspotted oak borer, thousand cankers disease); nor did they include pests on U.S. islands, such as `ohi`a rust and Erythrina gall wasp in Hawai`i. Aukema et al. 2010 also did not include pests that attack palms or cycads – which are significant components of some ecosystems on the continent as well as on America’s tropical islands. Finally, some invaders have come to our attention since the database on which these authors relied was compiled, e.g., polyphagous and Kuroshio shot hole borers and the rapid ohia death pathogen. (For a list of pests detected since 2003, see page 7 of Fading Forests III, available here; this list was compiled in 2014, so it does not include the most recently detected pests, such as rapid ohia death. For descriptions of most invaders discussed in this blog, go here.)

Of course, more important than numbers are impacts. Lovett et al. 2016 provide a summary of those impacts … but let’s get specific. Note that some of these species occupy wide ranges; it is not only the narrow endemics that are under threat.

  • Several tree species are severely depleted throughout their ranges: American chestnut, Fraser fir, Port-Orford cedar, butternut, Carolina hemlock, redbay and swamp bay, cycads on Guam
  • Other species or genera are already severely reduced in significant portions of their ranges and the causal agents are spreading to the remaining sanctuaries: whitebark pine.
  • In some cases, the causal agent has not yet spread, but threatens to: `ohi`a.
  • Some tree or shrub taxa are under severe attack across much of their ranges: ashes, eastern hemlock, American beech, dogwoods, tanoak, viburnums …

Many of America’s 300 species of oak face a variety of threats:

  • in the East, European gypsy moth, oak wilt, and – in some areas – winter moth;
  • in the South, oak wilt and Diplodia;
  • on the West coast, sudden oak death, goldspotted oak borer, the polyphagous and Kuroshio shot hole borers, Diplodia, and foamy bark canker.

(For more about threats to oaks, see my blog from last April.)

Other threats are – so far – confined to relatively small areas, but they could break out. These include the multi-host insects Asian longhorned beetle; polyphagous and Kuroshio shot hole borers; and spotted lanternfly. Tree genera containing species at risk to one or more of these insects include maple, elm, willow, birch, sycamore, cottonwood and poplar, sweet gum, oak. Only ALB and the lanternfly currently are the focus of federal and state programs aimed at eradication or containment. The widespread invasive tree, Ailanthus or tree of heaven, could support spread of at least the polyphagous shot hole borer and spotted lanternfly.

Of course, additional pests are likely to be introduced (or detected) in the future. Known threats include the various Asian subspecies of gypsy moth and ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus – previously  called Chalara fraxinea). If history is any guide, we are likely to be surprised by a highly destructive invader that we have either never heard of or dismissed based on its behavior elsewhere. See my earlier blogs for discussions of what should be done to reduce the introduction risk associated with wood packaging and imports of living plants.


What Should We Do?

2017 brings a new Administration and a new Congress. At a minimum, we need to educate all these decision-makers about both the high costs imposed by tree-killing insects and pathogens and effective strategies to minimize those costs. How will our concerns be received? We don’t know yet.

We might have opportunities arising from the skeptical attitude toward trade voiced during the campaign. Will newly elected or appointed agency and Congressional staffers be open to re-considering the plant health threats associated with international trade? On the other hand, will mainstream agriculture’s traditional strong support for exports continue to overwhelm calls to strengthen phytosanitary measures? Even if our message about risks associated with trade gains a hearing, will officials be willing to consider more rigorous regulations? Or higher funding levels for agencies responsible for plant pest prevention and response?

I hope you will join the Center for Invasive Species Prevention and others in coordinated efforts to take these messages to the next Secretary of Agriculture (who has not yet been named!) and key members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Opportunities in the Congress include Senate confirmation of the new Secretary and the three Under Secretaries that oversee APHIS, USFS, and ARS; annual appropriations bills; and early consideration of possible amendments to the Farm Bill (which is due for renewal in 2019).

See my post from a week ago for more suggestions for how Congress could improve U.S. invasive species management programs.

Expect to hear from me often in the coming year!



Aukema, J.E., D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle, A.M. Liebhold, K. Britton, & S.J. Frankel. 2010. Historical Accumulation of Nonindigenous Forest Pests in the Continental United States. Bioscience. December 2010 / Vol. 60 No. 11

Lovett, G.M., M. Weiss, A.M. Liebhold, T.P. Holmes, B. Leung, K.F. Lambert, D.A. Orwig , F.T. Campbell, J. Rosenthal, D.G. McCullough, R. Wildova, M.P. Ayres, C.D. Canham, D.R. Foster, S.L. LaDeau, and T. Weldy. 2016. Nonnative forest insects and pathogens in the United States: Impacts and policy options. Ecological Applications, 0(0), 2016, pp. 1–19. DOI 10.1890/15-1176.1

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.  2009.  Risk analysis for the movement of SWPM (WPM) from Canada into the US.


Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.


Invasive insects cause tens of billions in damage


Formosan subterranean termite damage to a house in New Orleans; observed by Ed Freytag & Alan Lax; photo by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service; bugwood.org

A recent study documents the high costs imposed by invasive insects worldwide.  The study, by Bradshaw et al. (source with link is at the end of this post) concluded that invasive insects cause at least $77 billion (US) in damage every year. This figure includes costs of $70 billion in estimates of damaged goods and service; and $6.9 billion in associated health costs.

What is more, this figure is “grossly underestimated” for a number of reasons:

  • There were few studies providing cost estimates. The authors started by reviewing more than 700 articles, but found that only 158 yielded usable economic estimates.
  • Most of the studies applied to North America and Europe; much of the globe is not included.
  • Ecosystem services eroded by invasive pests are rarely quantified.
  • The health cost estimate does not include the impact of malaria (in most areas, the vector is native rather than invasive), the Zika virus, or economic losses in tourism or productivity (these latter were too difficult to calculate).

While the most destructive of the insects identified in the reports was the Formosan subterranean termite, Bradshaw et al. question some of the economic data included in the single report on the termite. The most damaging insect for which they found “reproducible” economic estimates is the diamondback moth, a voracious consumer of cruciferous crops worldwide.

Other invasive insects cited as being associated with high damage levels are tree-killing pests familiar to readers of this blog: the brown spruce longhorn beetle, the European gypsy moth in North America, and the Asian longhorned beetle (write-ups on all three species can be read here. In my view, the high ranking of these insects reflects a (welcome!) effort by researchers to quantify tree pests’ impacts; although damages caused by agricultural pests are more easily reduced by pesticide applications.

The situation is likely to worsen in the future. According to the authors, climate change, rising human population densities, human mobility, and intensifying international trade will allow these costly insects to spread into new areas. Still, substantial savings could be achieved by increasing surveillance, containment and public awareness (my emphasis).

In an interview with Agence France Presse, one of the coauthors, Franck Courchamp said the best way to combat this growing threat — spread mainly through international commerce — is not more pesticides. Instead, “The solution is better ‘bio-security’,” he said. “This includes inspection of ship and air cargo from certain regions, legislation to ensure that high-risk imports must be treated and rapid eradication of new incursions.” (Interview is posted at http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/1102417/invasive-insects-cause-tens-of-billions-in-damage-study)



Bradshaw, C. J. A. et al. Massive yet grossly underestimated global costs of invasive insects. Nat. Commun. 7, 12986 doi: 10.1038/ncomms12986 (2016). (Open access)

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

What the new President & Congress Can Do re: Invasive Species

 White House


A new President and Congress take office in January.  And outgoing President Obama recently amended the Executive Order on invasive species.

What might the new leaders do to improve America’s invasive species programs?

Here are a group of actions that I think would improve programs significantly:

  • amend the Lacey Act to strengthen controls over introduction and spread of invasive animals and animal diseases;
  • raise the political profile of invasive species issues by holding more frequent oversight hearings;
  • increase funding for invasive species prevention, containment, and control programs;
  • support proposals to amend the 2019 Farm Bill to strengthen on-the-ground programs, policies, and research aimed at minimizing invasive species introduction, spread, and damage;
  • during the confirmation process, Senators should ask President Trump’s nominees to leadership positions in the Departments of Agriculture and Interior about how they will address invasive species challenges.

Do we need new legislation mandating that federal land-managing agencies do X or Y with regard to invasive species? This was the focus of a hearing in May at which I testified.

Federal land-managing agencies are already authorized and – in some cases required – to act to control invasive species on lands and waters under their jurisdiction.  Some of the existing statutes even authorize the agencies to apply fees paid by people who use the public lands for some purpose (e.g., livestock grazing, recreation) to management of invasive species.

Most of the statutes authorizing invasive species management incorporate that activity into the agency’s broader management goals for protection of wildlife, habitat, natural resources, historic or cultural sites, etc.  For example, the USFS Manual §2900 lists 21 laws and 6 regulations or policies that govern the USFS’ management of invasive species.  Some of these laws apply to all federal land-managing agencies, including:

  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 (16 U.S.C. §§1531 et seq.)
  • Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 1201, 1201 (note), 1236, 1272, 1305). §515
  • North American Wetland Conservation Act 1989 (16 U.S.C. 4401 (note), 4401-4413, 16 U.S.C. 669b (note)). §9 [U.S.C. 4408]
  • Sikes Act (Fish and Wildlife Conservation) of September 15, 1960 (16 U.S.C. 670g-670l, 670o, P.L. 86-797), as amended. §201
  • National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 [16 U.S.C. §§470 et seq.]
  • Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. §§1131 et seq.

Other statutes apply only to resource management authorities of the USDA Forest Service; these include:

  • Organic Administration Act of 1897 (16 U.S.C. §§ 473 et seq.).
  • Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. § 661 et seq.).
  • Knutson-Vandenberg Act of June 9, 1930 (16 U.S.C. 576, 576a-576b). §3 [16 U.S.C. 576b]
  • Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937 (7 U.S.C. §§1010 et seq.)
  • Anderson-Mansfield Reforestation and Revegetation Act of October 11, 1949 (16 U.S.C. 581j (note), 581j, 581k)
  • Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. §§528 et seq.)
  • Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) of 1974 as amended by the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976. §6
  • International Forestry Cooperation Act of 1990 (16 U.S.C. § 4501)
  • Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (H.R. 1904), [16 U.S.C. 6501-6502, 6511-18, 6541-42, 6571-78]
  • Wyden Amendment (P.L. 109-54, Section 434).
For brief descriptions of all these statutes, see the references and links at the end of this blog posting.

Advocates have tried before to legislate a specific requirement that federal agencies combat invasive species.  The Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974 (7 U.S.C. § 2801 note; 7 U.S.C. § 2814) was amended in 1990 to add §15, “Management of Undesirable Plants on Federal Lands”.  This section requires each federal agency to

1) designate an office or person adequately trained to develop and coordinate an undesirable plants management program for control of undesirable plants on federal lands under the agency’s jurisdiction, and

2) establish and adequately fund an undesirable plants management program through the agency’s budgetary process,

3) complete and implement cooperative agreements with state agencies regarding the management of undesirable plant species on federal lands, and

4) establish integrated management systems to control or contain undesirable plant species targeted under cooperative agreements.

This approach hasn’t worked – no one is satisfied by the federal agencies’ “weed” management efforts.



What is missing is a political demand for action – and support for necessary staff and funding. Agencies under the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior bear most of the responsibility for managing invasive species.  As long as these officials are not being pressed by key Congressional committees, the media, and key stakeholders to take more aggressive and effective action to curtail species introductions and suppress established populations of bioinvaders, they will continue to focus their attention on issues that do generate these kinds of political pressure.

I am not saying that the principal statutes governing invasive species management could not be improved.  As noted above, several proposals have been put forward to strengthen laws which are the foundation for preventing introduction of invasive species.  I will blog about specific proposals in the new year.



USFS Invasive Species Manual

ANSTF/NISC report “Federal Policy Options Addressing the Movement of Aquatic Invasive Species Onto and Off of Federal Lands and Waters. 2015.  Committee on the Movement of Aquatic Invasive Species both onto and off of Federal Lands and Waters.

Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.

Statement of the Center for Invasive Species Prevention on withdrawing its proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add the red swamp crayfish to the Lacey Act for further analysis


On September 26, 2016, the Center for Invasive Species Prevention (CISP) petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to add 43 species to those regulated under the Lacey Act. Among these species was the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkia). We now plan to withdraw and reconsider that species after we do more analysis.

We recognize that this crayfish species has major economic value. It is an important part of peoples’ livelihoods in Louisiana in particular. By no means do we want anyone in that business to feel threatened by the Petition.

Right now, the CISP Petition has no official status within the Federal government. It has not been published in the Federal Register nor has the USFWS indicated any intent to make it an official agency proposal. Even if it did, such a listing would not affect collecting, harvesting, rearing or selling crawfish directly within Louisiana or within other range States.

We would like to clear up some other confusion. It is true that the Lacey Act is used to prevent first-time imports of non-native “injurious wildlife” into the United States. The law has other provisions, though, that help prevent additional introductions of damaging species already in the country, that help stop harmful species’ interstate spread, and that apply to native species invading outside of their native ranges. These latter aspects can provide nationwide protection at a time when individual State’s laws are uneven. Populations of the red swamp crayfish are turning up in the wild. One can see how quickly it has become a nationwide problem in the wild on the animated map at the U.S. Geological Survey’s website. Approximately a dozen states have responded with their own prohibitions or other regulations.

We do think it is important to set a precedent that USFWS acts, in some way, on all species it determines to be of highest risk of invasiveness. Our Petition aimed to get this ball rolling. Much further analysis and public comment would go into any eventual decisions that USFWS makes on individual species. It could leave regulation of species in widespread trade to individual States.  On the red swamp crayfish, CISP will withdraw that species from our Petition and reconsider what the best options are. Then we will consider whether a new Petition tailored to that species is warranted.


posted by Peter Jenkins

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be uncivil or inflammatory.