You’ll note that many of these involve contacting state and federal governments and legislators. I’ve noticed that many ENGOs and other organizations make that easy to do by clicking on links and filling out forms. If someone wanted to make a serious impact on this problem, (if you were a foundation) you could set up such a thing for what Faith is asking. It’s a bit puzzling to me why this used to be an issue of interest to ENGOs but not so much anymore. “Dead trees sequester no carbon” and all that. And if we’re depending on forests as “natural climate solutions” seems like potential tree-killers would be a big piece of the puzzle. After all, the biggest forest/wildlife/human culture disruption in US history was the Chestnut blight.
My two previous blogs outlined the risk to U.S. forests from introduced insects and pathogens and the principal pathways of introduction: crates, pallets & other forms of packaging made of wood; and woody plants – imported usually for the ornamental horticulture market. I also addressed the need to reduce the damage caused by the hundreds of pests already established in the country.
I believe effective programs to manage introduced insects and pathogens must be guided by three principles:
1) Robust federal leadership is crucial:
- The Constitution gives primacy to federal agencies in managing imports and interstate trade.
- Only a consistent approach can protect trees (and other plants) from non-native pests that spread across state lines.
- Even after decades of budget and staff cuts, Federal agencies still have more resources than state agencies individually or in any probable collective efforts.
2) Success depends on a continuing, long-term effort founded on institutional and financial commitments commensurate with the scale of the threat. This requires stable funding; guidance by research findings and expert staff; and engagement by non-governmental players and stakeholders. However, funding has been neither adequate nor stable.
3) Programs’ effectiveness needs to be measured – outcomes, not just effort.
What you can do to support actions consistent with these principles
Make the case
- Expand your efforts to educate decision-makers and conservation organizations about the threat to conservation values arising from invasive species, particularly introduced forest insects and pathogens. Sources of information include Barrett, Fei, Poland, and Quirion (cited in the earlier blogs) and Lovett et al. (2006) Forest Ecosystem Responses to Exotic Pests and Pathogens in Eastern North America. BioScience Vol. 56 No. 5 May 2006). Engage with current loose coalitions working to improve policy – such as mine!
- Encourage scientific societies of which you are a member to engage on policy issues related to the introduction and management of introduced forest pests and pathogens and restoration of decimated tree species to the forest.
- Familiarize yourself with the literature demonstrating that international phytosanitary agreements (World Trade Organization Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards; International Plant Protection Convention) preclude actions to prevent introduction of “unknown unknowns” (surprise pests). Consider adding your voice to advocating change.
- Every year, review proposed funding levels of APHIS and USFS programs and urge your Member of Congress and Senators to ensure they are adequate. APHIS’ Tree and wood pest program has been appropriated $60 million for several years despite increasing number of introduced wood-borers. Only $5 million of the $300 million USFS Research and Development account has been allocated to invasive species.
Creating a coordination comprehensive program
- Urge your Member of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 1389. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1389?s=1&r=78 Ask your Senators to introduce a companion bill. Peter Welch (D-VT) is the lead sponsor; so far there are eight cosponsors — Thompson (CA), Pingree (ME), Kuster and Pappas (NH), Stefanik and Delgado (NY), Ross (NC), Fitzpatrick (PA). This bill would fund research into enhancing host species’ resistance to pests and planting of resulting progeny. It would also ease APHIS’ access to emergency funds. Ask them to ensure that this measure is included in the 2023 Farm Bill.
- Read Bonello, et al., (2020) Invasive Tree Pests Devastate Ecosystems—A Proposed New Response Framework. Front. For. Glob. Change 3:2. doi: 10.3389/ffgc.2020.00002
If you think this proposal makes sense, lobby your Member of Congress and Senators to 1) support H.R. 1389 or 2) press USDA to take administrative actions to implement such a comprehensive approach.
Improve Control over Introduction Pathways
- Urge your Member of Congress and Senators to press USDA to open APHIS data on pest detections in imported wood packaging, living plants, and other commodities and conveyances to analysis by independent scientists.
- Urge your Member of Congress and Senators to press APHIS to apply financial penalties to importers when wood packaging accompanying their imports does not comply with regulations in effect since 2006.
- Urge your Member of Congress and Senators to press APHIS to utilize its authority under the “Not Authorized for Importation Pending Pest Risk Assessment” (NAPPRA) program to prohibit importation of most plant species in the 150 genera of “woody” plants that North America shares with Europe or Asia.
- Support creation and surveillance of “sentinel plant” gardens near high-risk sites in the U.S. and in our trade partners.
Strengthen Programs to Reduce the Impact of Pests Already Here
Richard Sniezko and Jennifer Koch have documented the success of resistance breeding programs when they are supported by expert staff and reliable funding, and have access to appropriate facilities. One such facility is the USFS Dorena Genetic Resource Center in Oregon.
- Urge your Member of Congress and Senators to press USFS to expand resistance breeding programs. A starting point would be meeting with the full range of stakeholders to set priorities – probably based in part on the CAPTURE Program developed by Kevin Potter and others.
- Support H.R. 1389 and its inclusion in the 2023 Farm Bill (see above).
- Ask your state government to support regional consortia, g., Great Lakes Basin Forest Health Collaborative and Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation.
- Urge your Member of Congress and Senators to ask the Government Accountability Office or Congressional Research Service to analyze strategies for curtailing spread of pests within the country (the current patchwork of APHIS and state regulations and voluntary programs is not effective).