Director’s Talking Points

Trilateral Committee Meeting


April 29, 2003


•                      For the first time, within the Trilateral Committee framework, we will devote a day of the Plenary session to a single issue.  This issue, invasive species, is cross-cutting and globally important.


•                      While the world-wide effects of invasive species have impacted human health, industry, and agriculture, their effects on our natural resources may be most relevant in this forum.  North America, being one of the most eco-geographically diverse continents, has some of the greatest challenges with regard to invasive species, particularly where our natural resources are concerned.  


•                      The Trilateral Committee may provide a unique opportunity for coordination, cooperation, and development of partnerships to address invasive species issues specifically affecting our natural resources.  We will hear about on-going efforts to combat invasive species later this morning and we will be challenged to explore opportunities to address these problems which cross many of our shared areas of concern. 

•                      As with other natural resource issues, invasive species problems do not stop at our national borders.  We share some of the negative impacts caused by invasive species and it may be time for us to consider sharing strategies and solutions for addressing these problems.

•                      Invasive species are an important concern for natural resource managers and scientists. They impact native species and native habitats through predation, parasitism, competition, and introduction of new pathogens.


•                      In the U.S. we have found invasive species to be a leading threat to fish and wildlife resources, with potential to degrade entire ecosystems. 


•                                      Almost half of the species listed as endangered or threatened under U.S. federal law have been impacted by invasive species.


•                                      Invasive plants infest approximately 2.5 million hectares of the U.S.’s National Wildlife Refuge System (protected areas administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service), which interferes with critical wildlife management objectives on over 50% of all refuges. Nationwide, the rate of spread of invasive plants on Federal lands is estimated to be over 2,000 hectares per year.


•                                      Aquatic invasive species are a primary focus in the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Aquatic invasives have caused significant economic and ecological damage.  Two examples from the Great Lakes: 1) annual zebra mussels control and monitoring costs incurred by raw water users is estimated at 30 million dollars; 2) the introduction of a non-native fish, ruffe (rough), in the early-1980's caused a precipitous decline of nine native fish species.  Ruffe are now more abundant than the other fish species combined.


•                                      Wildlife diseases are a serious threat to managed and natural wildlife populations.  Many disease have been introduced from outside the U.S. We’ll hear more, later today, about West Nile virus.  This disease is not only a threat to humans, but has been identified in more than 100 bird species.  Total mortality and impact on bird populations is currently unknown.


•                                      More emphasis on invasive species regulation and management impacts our law enforcement colleagues, particularly at ports of entry.  The number of species that concern us for one reason or another is continually growing.  Port inspectors are our first line of defense for species that have been prohibited from entry due to their invasive nature.


•                      In the U.S., it was the natural resource managers and scientists (our community) that brought the invasive species issues to the forefront and to the attention of policy makers.


•                      As a result of increased awareness of the issue, we have begun to work more cooperatively within and outside the Federal government through various mechanisms that we will hear more about today.  


•                      We have developed and are now implementing a National Management Plan for invasive species in the United States.  One of the priority activities identified in the U.S. plan is to outline an approach to a North American invasive species strategy and to initiate discussions, like this, with our Mexican and Canadian counterparts.


•                      We understand that Canada and Mexico are also developing national plans of action to address invasive species.  Through the strengthening of our national capacities to deal with invasive species, we are better positioned to work as the North American region.   


•                      I’m excited to learn more about the issues and opportunities we have to consider.  This gives us a chance to work together on an issue that impacts each of our areas of shared concern.  While we learn more about activities and initiatives that are taking place trilaterally and within each of our countries, we should consider whether the Trilateral Committee is a forum to address some of these issues and if so how we will support cooperation to combat invasive species within the Trilateral Committee structure.