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E-M:/ NAISA Introduced Yesterday



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 5, 2003

Contact: Melissa Soule, Communications Director; (517) 316-2268 or msoule@tnc.org

Michigan Leaders Co-Sponsor Bipartisan Bills to Combat Aquatic Invasive Species

Recent estimates show invasive species cost the U.S. $138 billion annually

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bipartisan bills were introduced today in the U.S. Congress to combat the massive economic and ecological damage caused by aquatic invasive species throughout U.S. waters and waterways. If passed, new tools will be created to protect and manage inland waters.

Recent estimates indicate that invasive species cost the U.S. at least $138 billion per year in losses to fisheries, agriculture, forestry and the maintenance of open waterways. The proposed legislation will dramatically upgrade the nation's assault on aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003 (NAISA) was introduced by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and Representatives Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), and cosponsored by an additional 11 senators and 17 representatives.

Exotic species arrive in U.S. waters every day through a variety of pathways such as the discharge of untreated ballast water from foreign ships and are readily spread through interconnected waterways. In addition to expanding and strengthening existing programs governing ballast water management, the proposed legislation outlines prevention measures to establish a Priority Pathway Management Program to effectively target high-risk pathways for invasive species introductions, and mandates prescreening for planned importation of live organisms in trade.

The Great Lakes basin is a unique ecosystem with vast inland waters that have molded a rich and varied landscape, and given rise to a stunning diversity of plant and animal life, some found nowhere else in the world. However, since the 1800s more than 140 exotic aquatic organisms have become established in the Great Lakes, posing one of the greatest risks to the ecological integrity of the basin. For example, in 1988 the Asian Zebra mussel was found in Lake St. Clair. Within a year it had colonized virtually every firm structure in Lake Erie and had reached the other Great Lakes, threatening the health and existence of mussel species native to the Great Lakes.

"Prevention is the key to abating the threat of aquatic invasive species, for once established they may be impossible to control. The Sea Lamprey is an example. Native to the Atlantic, it nearly caused the collapse of the Great Lakes fishery during the 1950s. Today annual lampricide treatments are a must as a preventative measure," said John Andersen, director of the Great Lakes Program of The Nature Conservancy. "Our program will be focusing efforts to identify and implement prevention strategies," Andersen said.

Invasive species are organisms that establish themselves in new environments and are able to reproduce, dominate and destroy the native species. In the U.S. alone, more than 4,500 foreign species have gained a permanent foothold or taken root during the past century. Nearly 42 percent of the species on the federal Threatened and Endangered Species Lists are at risk, mainly because of invasive species.

"Aquatic invasive species post a significant threat to the health of our nation's waters and waterways. They are devastating the native plants and animals and can undo much of the progress made in conservation efforts," said Steve McCormick, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. "We applaud Senator Levin and Congressman Ehlers for introducing this legislation and sincerely hope that their colleagues in the 108th Congress will pass it into law."

"With Michigan at the center of the Great Lakes, we have an obligation here to protect our land and our waters that benefit our state and ultimately our planet," said Helen Taylor, state director for the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. "This legislation is absolutely a step in the right direction to help protect our vital natural resources."

The following members are cosponsors of the bills:

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The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than 1 million members worldwide have been responsible for the protection of at least 80 million acres on Earth, including more than 75,000 acres in Michigan. The Nature Conservancy embraces a non-confrontational, market-based approach for accomplishing its science-driven mission. Visit us online at: nature.org/michigan.


Melissa Soule, APR, Communications Director
The Nature Conservancy-Michigan Chapter
http://nature.org/michigan * Email: msoule@tnc.org
 
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