Since European settlement began in North America, nearly 500 non-native tree-feeding insects and disease-causing pathogens have been introduced into the United States. Despite a century of efforts to prevent introduction and spread of damaging plant pests, they continue to arrive in the U.S. and cause enormous ecological and economic damage. They reach here primarily as larvae or spores riding undetected in several kinds of imports:
• Crates, pallets, and other kinds of packaging made of wood.
• Living plants imported for our use, often as ornamentals in our gardens.
• Decorative items made of wood
• Asian gypsy moths and their relatives also arrive as egg masses attached to the ships themselves.
The Center for Invasive Species Prevention is advocating for several steps to close these pathways.
U.S. laws allow importation of nearly any animal into the United States. Only the few animals that have been declared “injurious” under the Lacey Act are barred. Designation of additional species as “harmful” is excruciatingly slow. For example, pythons—which are decimating native wildlife in the Everglades—were listed only in 2012.
The Center for Invasive Species Prevention is advocating for more forceful/aggressive implementation of the Lacey Act or, better yet, its replacement by stronger legislation that requires assessment of potential risks before animals may be imported.
Imported animals can also bring in novel diseases. A new salamander disease from Asia could enter the country via the pet trade. The eastern United States is the global center of salamander diversity. The Center for Invasive Species Prevention is advocating for emergency action to prohibit salamander imports until other means of preventing this disease can be assured.