(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: House bill would help protect state from invasive species

Just in time for Invasive Species Awarenes Week.

Next week, Feb. 28 – March 4, 2022, is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Invasive species are the plants, animals, fish, insects, mollusks and diseases that arrive in Alaska and aggressively out-compete the native species of Alaska’s ecosystems that we all value. To prevent and rapidly respond to invasive species before they cause unwanted harm to the environment, economy, or human health, collaboration and coordination is critical across stakeholders and jurisdictions. House Bill 54 provides mechanisms to improve the effectiveness of invasive species management in Alaska through the establishment of an Alaska Invasive Species Council and a rapid response fund.

Invasive species can arrive in Alaska via many ways, such as vehicles, trailered boats, commercial shipping, the pet trade, seaplanes, ornamental plants, and even the soles of our shoes. Often, invasive species are difficult to manage because their impacts go unnoticed until the populations are well established and the problem is too large to solve effectively and affordably. Alaska is in a fortunate situation, compared to Outside, because we have relatively few invaders. We have the rare opportunity to prioritize early detection of new, harmful invasive species and efficiently allocate our limited resources when eradication is still possible. With climate change and new infrastructure development, invasive species are becoming an increasingly substantial threat that demands our attention.

House Bill 54 will guarantee broad representation at the table (across land managers, Native organizations, science, industry, and commercial interests) to advise our state departments on consistent management of invasive species. The sale of an invasive species management decal to the public (voluntary purchase) will generate funds, and the development of a biannual 5-year invasive species strategic plan will prioritize invasive species response and address their economic effects. The Alaska Invasive Species Partnership supports this bill and what it will do for our state. We encourage Alaskans to contact their legislators and express their support for this bill for the benefit of our natural resources now and in the future.

Katherine Schake,

Chair for the Alaska Invasive Species Partnership

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