The Trump Administration has announced it’s cutting funding for prevention of invasive species entering the country. Scientists say the cuts will hurt many sectors of the economy, and even put national security at risk.
When non-native plant and animal species gain even a tiny foot hold here in the U.S. they can quickly wreak havoc, suffocating lake ecosystems, wiping out food sources, even disrupting military readiness. That’s according to a group of academics who made that point in a letter the journal, ‘Science.’ “This was in relation to tick borne illnesses, which are on the rise in the Eastern United States, and the military is quite concerned about this.”
Jacob Barney teaches in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech. He points out that the military manages a huge amount of land in this country and that invasives, such as Barberry where ticks flourish, has increased their personnel’s exposure to the diseases they carry.
“The more that they're sick and unhealthy because of these diseases, this reduces the military’s readiness and ability to prepare for their engagement.”
The Whitehouse’s executive order cutting invasive species prevention is part of a larger plan to cut one-third of all advisory councils. The scientists say, even before the cuts, invasives have been costing the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Take for example the “Tree of Heaven,” an invasive species so tenacious it will actually grow through pavement and cause damage to foundations. It’s just one of hundreds of invasives that arrive in this country every year, gain a foothold, and crowd out native species. The scientists say the White House is cutting funding for invasive species prevention at a time when it should be a priority.
“Invasive plants are incredible in their ability to thrive in these very harsh growing environments. And there's also increasing evidence that, invasive species are responding positively to climate change, which may exacerbate the ecological and environmental and economic consequences in which they're already posing. So, it's a real threat that's only worsening with time.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior cut the National Invasive Species Council by 50% and terminated its advisory committee. The scientists say deep cuts like these cripple the ability of federal agencies to work together on a comprehensive plan to combat invasive species.
“And what's, what's sort of interesting to me about invasive species is basically a nonpolitical issue. There's nobody, there's no group pro invasive species, you know, it's not a Republican or democratic issue. This affects everybody.”