New Report Warns Against Expansive New Regulation of 'Invasive Species'

Says Limits Would be of Dubious Value But Would Require Massive New Regulations on Property Use; Most 'Invasive Species' Actually are Beneficial

 

Contact: Peyton Knight or Ryan Balis
(202) 543-4110 or [email protected]
For Release: September 1, 2006


Washington, D.C. - Calls by some federal lawmakers to add burdensome new regulations to quarantine, to control or to kill so-called 'invasive species' are of dubious environmental value and represent a real threat to property owners, says a new report released by The National Center for Public Policy Research.

According to Dana Joel Gattuso, senior fellow at the National Center and author of the study, efforts on Capitol Hill to regulate non-native species -- plants or animals that are considered by some to be alien to a particular ecosystem -- is based more on "emotion rather than science.”  Gattuso argues that adding new invasive species regulations would be a disaster for sound scientific practices and would require massive expansion of government regulatory control on land.

The study, "Invasive Species: Animal, Vegetable or Political?," argues that most non-native species are not an environmental calamity but, in fact, adapt to their surroundings and are even useful for ecosystems, the environment, human health and industry.

"In spite of the fact that most non-native species are harmless, lawmakers are reacting to hype and exaggerations," writes Gattuso.  "[T]here is no scientific evidence of actual global extinction caused by a non-native species.  Nor do exotic species threaten species 'richness' or 'biodiversity.'"

To the contrary, non-native Asian oysters are better than native oysters at filtering out water pollutants.  Non-native South American water hyacinth blankets eat raw sewage, which provides a natural way to clean up polluted waters.

"The well-kept secret about exotic species is that cases of destruction are the exception; most non-indigenous species are benign or beneficial," writes Gattuso.  "Collectively, nonnative crops and livestock comprise 98 percent of our food system."

Soybeans, kiwi fruit, wheat and nearly all cattle are examples of invasive species.  And several states such as Maryland, Vermont, California and South Dakota honor non-native species as their State Flower or State Birds.  "In fact, invasives have become such a common part of our environment, culture and even diet that we don't think about them," writes Gattuso.

However, these benefits have not prevented Congress from introducing numerous bills that assign billions of tax dollars to eradicate or otherwise to prevent the spread of invasives.  Under some lawmakers' plans, government would have sweeping new authority to screen out non-native species and to regulate these species where they exist - on private as well as public lands.

"The 'invasive species' bills pending in Congress are not based on science but rather assume all non-indigenous species are harmful unless proven otherwise," writes Gattuso.  "The key problem with government's handling of the issue of non-natives is that it takes a simplistic view, bundling all the species together and exaggerating their effects on ecosystems and commercialism."

The National Policy Analysis paper can be viewed online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA544InvasiveSpecies.html.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation founded in 1982 and based in Washington, D.C.


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