Friday, March 21, 2008

Invasive earmark reporting from NPR

With a certain amount of amazement, I heard a broadcast from NPR which paired up earmarks for Asian long horned beetle funding in Illinois, with a fake prison museum project. While the story does address the problems of our present appropriation mess, it does a disservice to the invasive species challenges. The suggestion that is left in the listener’s ear is that this is a waste of money. I recognize that there are those who would dispute the extent of the impact of invasive species, but I think NPR has done a poor job of researching this issue in its story. The writers saw beetle and figured it would resonant with listeners as an inconsequential and wasteful issue, helping to make their point, and I suppose sales. I thought I was listening to Rush Limbaugh and had gotten the wrong station and missed whatever point they were making. [image above from APHIS:]

As an uncompensated but interested party, I would like to take some time to explain the damage done by this unwanted guest to the forests and eco-systems of the United States in the hope that NPR’s paid staff will do some back ground information gathering the next time they see the words: exotic alien, invasive, beetle or species. As Secretary of the National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee, I can personally assure the NPR reporters that a call to the NISC staff would have given them all the information needed to assess the impact of the Asian long horned beetle. Thus armed, the reporters could have found another earmark to attack. [Tree dying: image to the left from: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry Archive ]

Scientific name: Anoplophora glabripennis (Motschulsky); Common names: Asian long-horned beetle, starry sky beetle. Anoplophora glabripennis is native to Asia and was introduced to the US around 1996. The beetle most likely arrived accidentally in cargo from Asia.[1] Currently it is destroying hardwood tress in ALB infestations have been found in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Toronto, Canada. “In July 2006, the quarantine in Illinois was lifted since no more ALB beetles have been found in the area. In order to eradicate this pest, quarantines have been established around infested areas in New York, New Jersey and Illinois in the United States, as well as in Toronto, Canada, where beetles or their damage have been found.”[2] “If the Asian long horned beetle escaped and infested the all urban areas of the lower 48 states, the estimated national impact would be a loss of 34.9% of total canopy cover, 30.3% tree mortality (1.2 billion trees) and a value loss of $669 billion. (Nowak et al 2001)”[3]

It is a true pest and a significant problem which needs to be addressed with a focused, on the ground, local eradication effort before the cost of control is out of control. The 300,000 dollars is a small price to pay to work on the eradication of this pest. It would be wonderful if the White House would submit a request to Congress for an Invasive Species Detection and Eradication program. The likelihood, currently, of that happening is next to zero, so we are dependent on a few Congressmen seeing the damage in their district and directing funds to control the problem before we all have to share in the costs. It is so easy to label a politician with the earmark tag before we actually understand the project. While there maybe funding that seems worthless except to or for the recipient, this is funding that benefits all. I will note that I have not yet found the exact use of this money and will apologize profusely if someone can show me that the money was not going to the eradication, education or research of this invasive species and/or the damage it causes.

There is a National Invasive Species Council which needs funding so that it can truly do its mandated work. I could use your help in letting Congress know that we have a tool to begin the war, a war already here in the US which we are loosing. There are many species which could be controlled or eliminated with early detection and rapid response, but with out proper funding the problem grows until we can no longer have any hope of actually doing anything significant to mitigate the environmental impact on our eco-systems’ diversity.
Please send me any information as to the specifics of the "earmark" ALB funding.

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