oversight

Invasive Species: Federal Efforts and State Perspectives on Challenges and National Leadership

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-06-17.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                            United States General Accounting Office

GAO                         Testimony
                            Before the Subcommittee on Fisheries,
                            Wildlife, and Water, Committee on
                            Environment and Public Works,
                            United States Senate
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 9:30 a.m. EDT
Tuesday, June 17, 2003      INVASIVE SPECIES
                            Federal Efforts and State
                            Perspectives on Challenges
                            and National Leadership
                            Statement of Barry T. Hill, Director
                            Natural Resources and Environment




GAO-03-916T
                                                 June 17, 2003


                                                 INVASIVE SPECIES

                                                 Federal Efforts and State Perspectives on
Highlights of GAO-03-916T, testimony             Challenges and National Leadership
before the Subcommittee on Fisheries,
Wildlife, and Water, Committee on
Environment and Public Works, United
States Senate




Invasive species–nonnative plants                In 2002, GAO reported that while the National Management Plan calls for
and animals–have caused billions                 many actions that are likely to contribute to preventing and controlling
of dollars in damage to natural                  invasive species in the United States, it does not clearly articulate specific
areas, businesses, and consumers.                long-term goals toward which the government should strive. For example, it
In 2001, the federal government                  is not clear how implementing the actions in the plan will move national
issued a National Management Plan
to coordinate a national control
                                                 efforts toward outcomes such as reducing new invasive species by a specific
effort involving the 20 or so federal            number or reducing the spread of established species by a specific amount.
agencies that are responsible for                Moreover, GAO found that the federal government had made little progress
managing invasive species. In                    in implementing many of the actions called for by the plan. Reasons for the
October 2002, GAO reported on the                slow progress included delays in establishing teams to be responsible for
implementation of the management                 guiding implementation of the planned actions, the low priority given to
plan and efforts to manage ballast               implementation by the National Invasive Species Council and federal
water, among other things.                       agencies, and the lack of funding and staff responsible for doing the work.
(Invasive Species: Clearer Focus                 In addition, GAO reported that current federal efforts are not adequate to
and Greater Commitment Needed                    prevent the introduction of invasive species into the Great Lakes via the
to Effectively Manage the Problem)               ballast water of ships. Although federal officials believe more should be
[Oct. 2002, GAO-03-1]
                                                 done to protect the Great Lakes from ballast water discharges, their plans
This testimony discusses some of                 for doing so depend on the development of standards and technologies that
GAO’s findings and                               will take many years.
recommendations in that report. It
also presents the results of a                   More recently, state officials who responded to GAO’s survey, identified a
subsequent GAO survey of state                   number of gaps in, or problems with, existing legislation addressing invasive
officials responsible for managing               species and other barriers to managing invasives. Many state officials
terrestrial and aquatic invasive                 identified a lack of legal requirements for controlling invasive species that
species. This survey sought state                are already established or widespread as a key gap in legislation addressing
perspectives on (1) the perceived                both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. State officials also often
gaps in existing legislation and                 recognized ineffective standards for ballast water as a major problem in
barriers to addressing terrestrial
and aquatic invasive species and
                                                 aquatics legislation. Regarding barriers to managing invasive species, state
(2) the federal leadership structure             officials identified a lack of federal funding for state invasive species efforts,
for addressing invasive species, as              public education and outreach, and cost-effective control measures as major
well as the integration of federal               problems. State officials’ opinions varied on the preferred leadership
legislation on terrestrial invasive              structure for managing invasive species and whether to integrate legislative
species with legislation on aquatic              authority on invasive species. Many officials indicated that specifically
invasives.                                       authorizing the National Invasive Species Council would be an effective
                                                 management option and favored integrated authority, but in both cases, the
                                                 margins were relatively small. State officials indicated that the possible
                                                 benefits of integrated legislation would be increased coordination between
                                                 federal agencies and states and an increased focus on invasive species
                                                 pathways, as opposed to focusing on individual species. The possible
                                                 drawbacks identified included concerns that a single piece of legislation
                                                 would not be able to address all possible situations dealing with invasive
                                                 species and might reduce state flexibility in addressing invasives.
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-916T.

To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Barry T. Hill at
(202) 512-3841 or hillbt@gao.gov.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

I am pleased to be here today to discuss the difficult issue of managing
invasive species as you deliberate Senate Bill 525,1 which would
reauthorize the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control
Act of 1990.2 Invasive species—harmful, nonnative plants, animals, and
microorganisms—are found throughout the United States and cause
damage to crops, rangelands, waterways, and other ecosystems that is
estimated in the billions of dollars annually. In addition to their economic
costs, invasive species can have a devastating effect on natural areas,
where they have strangled native plants, taken over wetland habitats,
crowded out native species, and deprived waterfowl and other species of
food sources. Conservation biologists rank invasive species as the second
most serious threat to endangered species after habitat destruction.
Overall, scientists, academicians, and industry leaders are recognizing
invasive species as one of the most serious environmental threats of the
21st century. In October 2002, we issued a report on the federal
government’s National Management Plan for managing invasive species,
                                                ,
ballast water management, and other issues.3 4

My testimony today is based on our October 2002 report as well as new
work that you requested. Specifically, I will discuss the findings and
recommendations of our October 2002 report that address (1) progress
made by federal agencies implementing the National Management Plan
and (2) the current state of ballast water management as a pathway for
invasive species. I will also discuss some of the results of new work we
conducted to obtain state perspectives on (1) the gaps in, or problems
with, existing legislation and barriers to addressing terrestrial and aquatic
invasive species and (2) the federal leadership structure for addressing
invasive species and integration of federal legislation on terrestrial
invasive species with legislation on aquatic invasives. To obtain state
perspectives, we surveyed the state agencies typically most involved with


1
S. 525, 108th Cong. (2003).
2
Pub. L. No. 101-646, 104 Stat. 4761 (1990) (codified as amended at 16 U.S.C. §§ 4701-4751).
3
 U.S. General Accounting Office, Invasive Species: Clearer Focus and Greater
Commitment Needed to Effectively Manage the Problem, GAO-03-1 (Washington, DC: Oct.
2002).
4
 Executive Order 13112 created a National Invasive Species Council, now composed of 11
federal departments and agencies, to provide national leadership on addressing invasive
species and to develop a plan for managing them.



Page 1                                                                       GAO-03-916T
          invasive species—state agencies responsible for agriculture and natural
          resources or fish and wildlife—sending surveys to at least two agencies
          within each of the 50 states. We received 68 responses from a total of 45
          states. We also surveyed the members of the Invasive Species Advisory
          Committee, a federal advisory committee established to help the federal
          government develop and implement its National Management Plan; we
          received responses from about two-thirds of the 24 Committee members.
          We also interviewed officials in a few states chosen because of their well-
          established invasive species programs or the large number of invasive
          species present. We conducted our work in accordance with generally
          accepted government auditing standards. We will provide to you the full
          results of our survey in a separate product.


          As we reported in October 2002, the National Management Plan for
Summary   addressing invasive species lacks a clear long-term desired outcome and
          quantifiable measures of performance. While the actions called for in the
          plan are likely to contribute to controlling invasive species in a general
          sense, it is unclear how implementing them will move the United States
          toward a specific outcome, such as reducing new invasive species by a
          specific number or reducing the spread of established species by a
          specified amount. Federal officials recognize that the plan has deficiencies
          and are working on improvements. Currently, the only performance
          measure that can be assessed is the percentage of planned actions that
          have been completed. By this measure, implementation has been slow. As
          of September 2002, federal agencies had completed less than 20 percent of
          the actions that the plan called for by that date, although they had begun
          work on others. Reasons for the slow progress included delays in
          establishing teams to be responsible for guiding implementation of the
          planned actions, the low priority given to implementation by the National
          Invasive Species Council and federal agencies, and the lack of funding and
          staff responsible for doing the work. Some stakeholders expressed the
          view that the low priority given to implementing the plan and associated
          limited progress may be due to the fact that the Council and plan were
          created by executive order and thus do not receive the same priority as
          programs that are legislatively mandated. We made several
          recommendations to the Council intended to clarify goals and objectives
          in the National Management Plan and to improve reporting on the progress
          of its implementation; Council agencies generally agreed with our
          recommendations.

          We also reported in October 2002 that current federal efforts are not
          adequate to prevent the introduction of invasive species into the Great

          Page 2                                                          GAO-03-916T
Lakes via the ballast water of ships. Despite federal regulations requiring
ships that enter the lakes from more than 200 nautical miles off the U.S.
coast to exchange their ballast water in the open ocean (that is, in waters
deeper than 2,000 meters and farther than 200 nautical miles from the U.S.
coast); retain the ballast water on board; or use an alternative,
environmentally sound, method of ballast water management, aquatic
invasive species are still entering the Great Lakes and establishing
themselves in the ecosystem. According to the experts we consulted, at
least two factors contribute to the failure of the existing regulations to
prevent introductions. First, about 70 percent of the ships that enter the
Great Lakes are classified by the Coast Guard as having no ballast on
board and, are therefore, exempt from open-ocean exchange
requirements. However, these ships may in fact carry thousands of gallons
of residual ballast water and sediment in their drained tanks, and this
water and sediment may contain potentially invasive organisms that may
be mixed with water later taken from, and then discharged into, the Great
Lakes. Second, the open-ocean exchange conducted by ships that have
ballast does not effectively remove or kill all organisms in the ballast
tanks. Although federal officials believe more should be done to protect
the Great Lakes from ballast water discharges, their plans for doing so
depend on the development of standards and technologies that will take
many years. In the meantime, the continued introduction of invasive
species could have major economic and ecological consequences.

According to our new work, state officials identified a number of
legislative gaps or problems, and other barriers related to addressing
invasive species. A key gap noted in both aquatic and terrestrial legislation
is the lack of legal requirements for controlling invasive species that are
already established or widespread. State officials said that if there is no
federal requirement, there is often little money available to combat a
species and that a legal requirement would raise the priority for
responding to it. For example, one state official complained about the lack
of authority to control Eurasian ruffe, an invasive fish that has spread
through several Great Lakes and causes great harm to native fisheries. He
compared this to the authorities available to control the sea lamprey,
which has a mandated control program that is funded by the U.S. and
Canada.5 In addition, many state officials frequently cited, as ineffective,
the current federal standards for ballast water, which only impose
requirements on ships entering the Great Lakes and not other U.S. waters.


5
Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries, Sept. 10, 1954, U.S.-Can., 6 U.S.T. 2836.



Page 3                                                                       GAO-03-916T
             State officials also identified the lack of federal funding for state invasive
             species efforts as another barrier they face. In particular, states were
             concerned about not having sufficient funds to create management plans
             for addressing invasive species, and to conduct monitoring and detection,
             inspection and enforcement, and research activities. Finally, state officials
             were also concerned with the lack of cost-effective control measures and
             insufficient public education and outreach efforts.

             State officials’ opinions on effective federal leadership structures for
             addressing invasive species varied. A National Invasive Species Council
             specifically authorized in legislation was most often identified as an
             effective leadership structure for managing invasive species, although
             many officials also thought that continuing with the Council as established
             by executive order would also be effective. Several federal agency officials
             thought that giving the Council authority in legislation would make it
             easier for them to implement the National Management Plan. Regarding
             the form legislation on invasive species should take, most state officials
             were in favor of integrating legislation on terrestrial invasive species with
             legislation on aquatic invasive species, but the margin was relatively small.
             Many state officials indicated that the possible benefits of integrated
             legislative authority would be increased coordination between federal
             agencies and states and an increased focus on invasive species pathways,
             as opposed to specific species. The possible drawbacks identified included
             concerns that a single piece of legislation would not be able to address all
             possible situations dealing with invasive species and may result in reduced
             state flexibility in addressing invasives.


             As we have reported in the past, the impact of invasive species in the
Background   United States is widespread, and their consequences for the economy and
             the environment are profound.6 Invasive species affect people’s livelihoods
             and pose a significant risk to industries such as agriculture, ranching, and
             fisheries. The cost to control invasive species and the cost of damages
             they inflict, or could inflict, on property and natural resources are
             estimated in the billions of dollars annually. For example, according to the
             U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), each year the Formosan termite
             causes at least $1 billion in damages and control costs in 11 states; USDA



             6
              U.S. General Accounting Office, Invasive Species: Federal and Selected State Funding to
             Address Harmful Nonnative Species, GAO/RCED-00-219 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 24,
             2000).



             Page 4                                                                     GAO-03-916T
also estimates that, if not managed, fruit flies could cause more than $1.8
billion in damage each year.7 Invasive species continue to be introduced in
new locations, with recent examples including the northern snakehead
fish in Maryland, the emerald ash borer in Michigan, and the monkeypox
virus in the Midwest.

Invasive species may arrive unintentionally as contaminants of bulk
commodities, such as food, and in packing materials, shipping containers,
and ships’ ballast water. Ballast water is considered a major pathway for
the transfer of aquatic invasive species. Ballast is essential to the safe
operation of ships because it enables them to maintain their stability and
control how high or low they ride in the water. Ships take on or discharge
ballast water over the course of a voyage to counteract the effects of
loading or unloading cargo, and in response to sea conditions. The ballast
that ships pump aboard in ports and harbors may be fresh, brackish, or
salt water. These waters could potentially contain various organisms that
could then be carried to other ports around the world where they might be
discharged, survive, and become invasive. Other invasive species may be
introduced intentionally; kudzu, for example—a rapidly growing invasive
vine that thrives in the southeastern United States—was intentionally
introduced from Japan as an ornamental plant and was used by USDA in
the 1930s to control soil erosion.

Federal agencies implement a variety of invasive species-related programs
and activities pursuant to their specific missions and responsibilities.
USDA, for example, spends significant resources on prevention and
control activities for invasive species that harm agricultural and forest
products. USDA is also responsible for preventing infectious diseases,
some of which are considered invasive, from spreading among livestock.
States also play a major role in addressing invasive species, either through
their own programs or through collaboration with or funding from federal
programs. Such programs and the amount of resources expended on them
vary considerably among the states.

In response to concerns that we were losing the battle against invasive
species, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13112 in February 1999
to prevent the introduction of invasive species; provide for their control;
and minimize their economic, environmental, and human health impacts.
The executive order established the National Invasive Species Council,


7
Estimates are in 2001 dollars.



Page 5                                                          GAO-03-916T
                      which is now composed of the heads of 11 federal departments and
                      agencies, to provide national leadership on invasive species and to ensure
                      that federal efforts are coordinated and effective, among other things. The
                      executive order also required the Secretary of the Interior to establish a
                      federal advisory committee to provide information and advice to the
                      Council. To achieve the goals of the executive order, the Council was to
                      develop a national management plan that would serve as the blueprint for
                      federal action on invasive species. S. 525, if enacted, would call on the
                      Council to carry out several other activities such as implementing a
                      strategy to share information collected under the proposed legislation and
                      to develop a program for educating the public about certain pathways for
                      invasive species; it would also authorize funds for the Council to carry out
                      these activities.


                      The National Invasive Species Council’s management plan, Meeting the
National Management   Invasive Species Challenge, issued in January 2001, calls for actions that
Plan Lacks            are likely to help control invasive species, such as issuing additional
                      regulations to further reduce the risk of species introductions via solid
Measurable Goals,     wood packing material, developing methods to determine rapid response
and Its               measures that are most appropriate for specific situations, and devoting
                      additional resources to strengthening inspection services at ports of entry.
Implementation Has    However, as we observed in our October 2002 report, the plan lacks a
Been Slow             clear long-term goal and quantifiable performance criteria against which to
                      evaluate its overall success. For example, the plan does not contain
                      performance-oriented goals and objectives, such as reducing the
                      introduction of new species by a certain percentage or reducing the spread
                      of established species by a specified amount. Instead, the plan contains an
                      extensive list of actions that, while likely to contribute to preventing and
                      controlling invasive species, are not clearly part of a comprehensive
                      strategy. Similarly, many of the actions in the plan call for federal agencies
                      to take certain steps rather than to achieve specific results and do not
                      have measurable outcomes. For example, the plan calls for the Council to
                      work with relevant organizations to “expand opportunities to share
                      information, technologies, and technical capacity on the control and
                      management of invasive species with other countries.” The plan also calls
                      for the Council to support international conferences and seminars. These
                      types of actions are more process-oriented than outcome-oriented; taken
                      individually, the actions may be useful, but judging whether they are
                      successful and have contributed to an overall goal, will be difficult.

                      Federal officials involved in developing the plan told us that they
                      recognize that it has deficiencies and are working on improvements. The

                      Page 6                                                           GAO-03-916T
Council acknowledged in the plan itself that many of the details of the
actions called for would require further development in the
implementation phase. The executive director of the Council staff told us
that, in her opinion, given the scope of this first-time effort, it would have
been unrealistic and difficult to agree on specific measurable goals. She
also said that, in many areas, the federal government does not have the
data on invasive species conditions needed to set long-term goals and
develop better performance measures. She said that many of the actions
called for in the management plan are designed to help develop needed
data but pointed out that doing so for some aspects of invasive species
management will be difficult given the comprehensive data needed.

The management plan also called for the Council to establish a transparent
oversight mechanism by April 2001 to report on implementation of the
plan and compliance with the executive order. This mechanism, however,
is just now being set in place. Without this mechanism, the only available
measure that could have be used to assess overall progress in
implementing the plan was the percentage of planned actions that were
completed by the dates set in the plan. By this measure, implementation
has been slow. Specifically, federal agencies had completed less than 20
percent of the 65 actions that were called for by September 2002. Council
agencies had started work on over 60 percent of the remaining planned
actions, however, including some that have a due date beyond September
2002. Several actions in the plan that were completed on time related to
the development of the Council’s Web site, which is found at
www.invasivespecies.gov. In addition, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, the Coast Guard, the Department of the
Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had sponsored
research related to ballast water management. Nevertheless, a vast
majority of the members of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee,
which we surveyed for our October 2002 report, said that the Council was
making inadequate or very inadequate progress.

We found several reasons for the slow progress in implementing the plan.
First, delays occurred in establishing the teams of federal and nonfederal
stakeholders that were intended to guide implementation of various parts
of the plan. Second, our review of agencies’ performance plans (prepared
pursuant to the Government Performance and Results Act) indicated that
while some agencies’ plans described efforts taken to address invasive
species under their own specific programs, none of the plans specifically
identified implementing actions called for by the plan as a performance
measure. Some stakeholders expressed the view that the low priority
given to implementing the plan and associated limited progress may be

Page 7                                                             GAO-03-916T
                           due to the fact that the Council and plan were created by executive order,
                           and thus do not receive the same priority as programs that are legislatively
                           mandated. Finally, we also noted a lack of funding and staff specifically
                           devoted to implementing the plan.

                           To address these shortcomings, we recommended that the Council co-
                           chairs (the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, and the Interior)

                       •   ensure that the updated management plan contains performance-oriented
                           goals and objectives and specific measures of success and

                       •   give high priority to establishing a transparent oversight mechanism for
                           use by federal agencies complying with the executive order and reporting
                           on implementation of the management plan.

                           We also recommended that all member agencies of the National Invasive
                           Species Council with assigned actions in the current management plan
                           recognize their responsibilities in either their departmental or agency-level
                           annual performance plans. The agencies generally agreed with our
                           recommendations.

                           Since we issued our report, the Council made significant progress on its
                           first crosscutting budget—one of the planned actions in the management
                           plan that should help to develop performance measures and promote
                           better coordination of actions among agencies. The Office of Management
                           and Budget is currently reviewing the Council’s proposal for the fiscal year
                           2004 budget cycle. In addition, according to Council staff, the oversight
                           mechanism should be finalized in July 2003, and the first revision to the
                           management plan should be finalized later this summer.


                           According to experts and agency officials we consulted, current efforts by
Current Regulations        the United States are not adequate to prevent the introduction of aquatic
Concerning Ballast         invasive species into the Great Lakes via ballast water of ships, and they
                           need to be improved. Since 1993, federal regulations have required vessels
Water Management           entering the Great Lakes from outside the Exclusive Economic Zone—a
Are Not Keeping            zone extending 200 nautical miles from the shore—to exchange their
                           ballast water in the open ocean (that is, water deeper than 2,000 meters)
Invasive Species out       before entering the zone. Exchanging ballast water before arriving in the
of the Great Lakes         Great Lakes is intended to serve two purposes: to flush aquatic species
                           taken on in foreign ports from the ballast tanks and to kill with salt water
                           any remaining organisms that happen to require fresh or brackish water. If
                           a ship bound for the Great Lakes has not exchanged its ballast water in the


                           Page 8                                                           GAO-03-916T
open ocean it must hold the ballast in its tanks for the duration of the
voyage through the lakes or conduct an exchange in a different approved
location. Data from the Coast Guard show that the percentage of ships
entering the Great Lakes after exchanging their ballast water has steadily
increased since the regulations took effect in 1993 and averaged over 93
percent from 1998 through 2001. Despite this, numerous aquatic invasive
species have entered the Great Lakes via ballast water and have
established populations since the regulations were promulgated.

Experts have cited several reasons for the continued introductions of
aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes despite the ballast water
regulations. In particular, the Coast Guard’s ballast water exchange
regulations do not apply to ships with little or no pumpable ballast water
in their tanks, which account for approximately 70 percent of ships
entering the Great Lakes from 1999 through 2001. These ships, however,
may still have thousands of gallons of residual ballast and sediment in
their tanks that could harbor potentially invasive organisms from previous
ports of call and then be discharged to the Great Lakes during subsequent
ballast discharges. There are also concerns that open-ocean ballast water
exchange is not an effective method of removing all potentially invasive
organisms from a ship’s ballast tank.

Federal officials believe that they should do more to develop treatment
standards and technologies to protect the Great Lakes from ballast water
discharges. The Coast Guard is now working to develop new regulations
that would include a performance standard for ballast water—that is, a
measurement of how “clean” ballast water should be before discharge
within U.S. waters. The Coast Guard is expecting to have a final rule ready
for interdepartmental review by the fall of 2004 that will contain ballast
water treatment goals and a standard that would apply not only to ships
entering the Great Lakes but to all ships entering U.S. ports from outside
the Exclusive Economic Zone. Once the Coast Guard sets a performance
standard, firms and other entities will be able to use this as a goal as they
develop ballast water treatment technologies. While several technologies
are being investigated, such as filtration and using physical biocides such
as ultraviolet radiation and heat treatment, a major hurdle to be overcome
in developing technological solutions is how to treat large volumes of
water being pumped at very high flow rates. In addition, small container
vessels and cruise ships, which carry a smaller volume of ballast water,
may require different technologies than larger container vessels. As a
result, it is likely that no single technology will address the problem
adequately. Consequently, it could be many years before the world’s
commercial fleet is equipped with effective treatment technologies.

Page 9                                                           GAO-03-916T
Without more effective ballast water standards, the continued introduction
of aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes and other aquatic systems
around the country is likely to cause potentially significant economic and
ecological impacts.

We reported in October 2002 that the Coast Guard and the Department of
Transportation’s Maritime Administration are developing programs to
facilitate technology development. In addition, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have
funded 20 ballast water technology demonstration projects at a total cost
of $3.5 million since 1998 under a research program authorized under the
National Invasive Species Act. Other programs also support research, and
the Maritime Administration expects to make available several ships of its
Ready Reserve Force Fleet to act as test platforms for ballast water
technology demonstration projects. Once effective technologies are
developed, another hurdle will be installing the technologies on the world
fleet.8 New ships can be designed to incorporate a treatment system, but
existing ships were not designed to carry ballast water technologies and
may have to go through an expensive retrofitting process. With each
passing year without an effective technology, every new ship put into
service is one more that may need to be retrofitted in the future.

Public and private interests in the Great Lakes have expressed
dissatisfaction with the progress in developing a solution to the problem of
aquatic invasive species introduced through ballast water. An industry
representative told us that she and other stakeholders were frustrated with
the slow progress being made by the Coast Guard in developing a
treatment standard. More broadly, in the absence of stricter federal
standards for ballast water, several Great Lakes states have considered
adopting legislation that would be more stringent than current federal
regulations. In addition, in a July 6, 2001, letter to the U.S. Secretary of
State and the Canadian Minster of Foreign Affairs, the International Joint
Commission and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission stated their belief
that the two governments were not adequately protecting the Great Lakes




8
 A recent study analyzing the market for future treatment technologies reported that there
are over 47,000 vessels in the world fleet for which ballast water treatment technologies
could be applicable.



Page 10                                                                      GAO-03-916T
                        from further introductions of aquatic invasive species.9 They also noted a
                        growing sense of frustration within all levels of government, the public,
                        academia, industry, and environmental groups throughout the Great Lakes
                        basin and a consensus that the ballast water issue must be addressed now.
                        The two commissions believe that the reauthorization of the National
                        Invasive Species Act is a clear opportunity to provide funding for research
                        aimed at developing binational ballast water standards.

                        S. 525 sets forth a more aggressive program against the introduction of
                        aquatic invasive species through ballast water and related pathways. In
                        particular, it would require ballast water standards for ships in all waters
                        of the U.S., instead of the current voluntary program for waters outside of
                        the Great Lakes. It also specifically authorizes significantly more funding
                        in the form of grants to states, and federal funding and grants for research,
                        including research on pathways, likely aquatic invaders, and development
                        of cost-effective control methods.

                        Now let me turn to our most recent work gathering state perspectives on
                        invasive species legislation and management.


                        State officials who responded to our survey identified several gaps in, or
State Officials Cited   problems with, existing federal legislation on aquatic and terrestrial
Several Gaps in         invasive species, as well as other barriers to their efforts to manage
                        invasive species.
Existing Federal
Legislation and
Identified Other
Barriers to
Addressing Invasive
Species


                        9
                         The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 established the International Joint Commission to,
                        among other things, advise the U.S. and Canadian governments concerning transboundary
                        water quality issues. The Commission has six members: three appointed by the President of
                        the United States, with the advice and approval of the Senate, and three appointed by the
                        Governor in Council of Canada, on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Great Lakes
                        Fishery Commission was created in 1955 by a convention on Great Lakes fisheries between
                        the U.S. and Canada.



                        Page 11                                                                    GAO-03-916T
Perceived Gaps in or     According to our new work, the lack of legal requirements for controlling
Problems with Existing   already-established or widespread invasive species was the gap in existing
Legislation              legislation on aquatic and terrestrial species most frequently identified by
                         state officials. Specifically, they said that this is a problem for species that
                         do not affect a specific commodity or when a species is not on a federal
                         list of recognized invasives. Officials noted that if there is no federal
                         requirement, there is often little money available to combat a species and
                         that a legal requirement would raise the priority for responding to it. For
                         example, one state official complained about the lack of authority to
                         control Eurasian ruffe, an invasive fish that has spread through several
                         Great Lakes and causes great harm to native fisheries. He compared this to
                         the authorities available to control the sea lamprey, which has a mandated
                         control program that is funded by the U.S. and Canada. In addition, some
                         state officials said that in the absence of federal requirements, differences
                         among state laws and priorities also pose problems for addressing
                         established species, for example, when one state may regulate or take
                         actions to control a species and an adjacent state does not. Some state
                         officials noted that they have little authority to control or monitor some
                         species and that getting laws or regulations for specific species, such as
                         those for the sea lamprey, takes time.

                         Many state officials also identified ineffective federal standards for ballast
                         water as a problem for addressing invasive species. Specifically, some
                         state officials complained that standards and treatment technologies,
                         regulations, compliance with reporting requirements, and penalties for
                         noncompliance are lacking and say that research and legislation are
                         needed to address the problem. As we reported in October 2002, federal
                         regulations for ballast water are not effective at preventing invasive
                         species from entering our waters and are only required for ships entering
                         the Great Lakes. Some state officials also said that federal leadership is
                         essential to fund efforts in these areas and to provide coordination among
                         states. As I have already noted, S. 525 would authorize a more aggressive
                         program for developing standards and technologies for regulating ballast
                         water. Although some state officials believe solving the ballast water
                         problem is possible, some officials pointed to difficulties in doing so with
                         some methods. Specifically, these officials noted that some
                         environmentalists are opposed to chemical treatments, while industry
                         groups have objected to the cost of some technologies. S. 525 would revise
                         the definition of “environmentally sound” (as in environmentally sound
                         control measures) to delete the emphasis on nonchemical measures.




                         Page 12                                                            GAO-03-916T
Other Barriers to     State officials reported that inadequate federal funding for state efforts
Addressing Invasive   was the key barrier to addressing invasive species—both aquatic and
Species               terrestrial. In particular, state officials were concerned about having
                      sufficient funds to create management plans for addressing invasive
                      species, particularly as more states begin to develop plans, and for
                      inspection and enforcement activities. State officials also identified the
                      need for additional funds to conduct monitoring and detection programs,
                      research, and staffing. In particular, some state officials noted that
                      uncertainty in obtaining grant funds from year to year makes it difficult to
                      manage programs, especially when funding staff positions relies on grants.
                      S. 525 would specifically authorize significantly more funding in grants to
                      address invasive species than is specifically authorized under the current
                      legislation.

                      Many state officials also identified a lack of public education and outreach
                      as a barrier to managing terrestrial invasive species. Public education and
                      outreach activities are important components of the battle against invasive
                      species, as many invasives have been introduced through the activities of
                      individuals, such as recreational boating, and the pet, live seafood, and
                      plant and horticultural trades. For example, the outbreak of the
                      monkeypox virus that has sickened at least 80 people in the Midwest is
                      thought to have spread from a Gambian rat imported from Africa to be
                      sold as a pet. S. 525 includes efforts intended to provide better outreach
                      and education to industry, including the horticulture, aquarium,
                      aquaculture, and pet trades, and to recreational boaters and marina
                      operators, about invasive species and steps to take to reduce their spread.

                      State officials identified a lack of cost-effective control measures as a key
                      barrier to addressing aquatic invasive species. Some officials commented
                      that there is a need for more species-specific research to identify effective
                      measures. For example, one successful control effort—the sea lamprey
                      control program—costs about $15 million per year. However, similar
                      control programs for all invasive species would be problematic and
                      officials told us that targeted research on control methods is needed,
                      particularly for aquatic invasive species. S. 525 would authorize a grant
                      program for research, development, demonstration, and verification of
                      environmentally sound, cost-effective technologies and methods to control
                      and eradicate aquatic invasive species.




                      Page 13                                                          GAO-03-916T
                           State officials’ opinions varied on the preferred leadership structure for
State Officials’           managing invasive species and whether to integrate legislative authority
Opinions Varied on         on invasive species. Many state officials indicated that specifically
                           authorizing the National Invasive Species Council would be an effective
Effective Leadership       management option and favored integrated authority, but in both cases,
Structures for             the margins were relatively small.
Managing Invasive
Species and Whether
to Integrate
Legislative Authority
on Invasive Species

Federal Leadership         Currently, no single agency oversees the federal invasive species effort.
Structure for Invasive     Instead, the National Invasive Species Council, which was created by
Species                    executive order and is composed of the heads of 11 federal departments
                           and agencies, is intended to coordinate federal actions addressing the
                           problem. State officials most often identified specifically authorizing the
                           Council in legislation as an effective leadership structure for managing
                           invasive species. Almost all of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee
                           members that responded to our survey agreed with this approach. During
                           our work for our October 2002 report, the executive director of the
                           Council noted that legislative authority for the Council, depending on how
                           it was structured, could be useful in implementing the national
                           management plan for invasive species by giving the Council more
                           authority and, presumably, authorizing more resources. Officials from
                           USDA, the Department of Defense, and EPA also told us that legislative
                           authority, if properly written, would make it easier for Council agencies to
                           implement the management plan, as implementing actions under the
                           executive order are perceived to be lower in priority than are programs
                           that have been legislatively mandated. Many state officials, however, also
                           believed that keeping the current Council authority as established by
                           executive order is an effective option.


Integration of Federal     As you know, federal authorities for addressing invasive species are
Laws Addressing Invasive   scattered across a patchwork of laws under which aquatic and terrestrial
Species                    species are treated separately. Questions have been raised about whether
                           this is the most effective and efficient approach and whether the federal
                           government’s ability to manage invasive species would be strengthened if

                           Page 14                                                          GAO-03-916T
integrated legal authority addressed both types of invasives. Some believe
such an approach would provide for more flexibility in addressing invasive
species; others are concerned that such an approach would disrupt
existing programs that are working well.

On the basis of the responses from state officials, no clear consensus
exists on whether legislative authority for addressing aquatic and
terrestrial invasive species should be integrated. Overall, state officials
were in favor of integrating legislative authority, but the margin was
relatively small. Differences were more distinct, however, when we
considered the state officials’ expertise. Specifically, we asked officials
whether they considered themselves experts or knowledgeable in aquatic
invasive species, terrestrials, or both. A large majority of the state officials
who identified themselves as having expertise solely in aquatic invasive
species were against integrating aquatic and terrestrial authority. The
terrestrial experts were also against integrated authority, but with a
smaller majority. These positions contrast with those of the state officials
who said they were experts or knowledgeable in both aquatic and
terrestrial invasives; these officials favored integrated authority by a large
majority. About twice as many members of the Invasive Species Advisory
Committee who responded to our survey favored integrating legislation on
aquatic and terrestrial invasive species compared to those who did not.

Regarding the drawbacks of integrating authority for aquatic and
terrestrial invasive species, many state officials said that it could be
difficult to address all possible situations with invasive species and some
species or pathways may get overlooked, and were concerned that it may
reduce state flexibility implementing invasive species programs. Some
state officials said that the two types of invasives should be handled
separately, since the ecological complexities of aquatics and terrestrials
are very different—different pathways of entry and spread, and different
requirements for control methods and expertise. In addition, some
officials stated that combining legislative authority would result in
competition among various invasive species programs for scarce
resources. In particular, one official referred to the “issue of the moment”
phenomenon, where a specific invasive species becomes the focus of great
public attention and receives a large share of resources, while many other
species may get very few resources.

On the other hand, many state officials saw an increased focus on
pathways for invasive species—as opposed to on specific species—as a
possible benefit of integrating authority for aquatic and terrestrial invasive
species. Such an approach could facilitate more effective and efficient

Page 15                                                            GAO-03-916T
                   efforts to address invasive species. Many state officials also believed that
                   integration of legislative authority could result in increased coordination
                   between federal agencies and states. Some state officials described the
                   efforts needed to address invasives as requiring broad, interdisciplinary
                   coordination and characterized the current federal effort as fragmented
                   and ineffective. In addition, some state officials said that the classification
                   of species into aquatic or terrestrial types might not be clear-cut and that
                   the current separation between them is “an artificial federal construct,”
                   citing, for example, the difficulty of classifying amphibians.


                   Mr. Chairman, this concludes our prepared statement. We would be happy
                   to respond to any questions that you or Members of the Subcommittee
                   may have.


                   For further information about this testimony, please contact me at (202)
GAO Contacts and   512-3841. Mark Bondo, Mark Braza, Kate Cardamone, Curtis Groves, Trish
Staff              McClure, Judy Pagano, Ilga Semeiks, and Amy Webbink also made key
                   contributions to this statement.
Acknowledgments




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                   Page 16                                                            GAO-03-916T
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