Invasive Species:

Cooperation and Coordination Are Important for Effective Management of Invasive Weeds

GAO-05-185: Published: Feb 25, 2005. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 2005.

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Invasive weeds, native or nonnative plant species, cause harm to natural areas such as rangelands or wildlife habitat and economic impacts due to lost productivity of these areas. While the federal investment in combating invasive species is substantial most has been concentrated on agricultural lands, not on natural areas. In this report, GAO describes (1) the entities that address invasive weeds in natural areas and the funding sources they use; (2) federal, state, and local weed management officials' views on the barriers to weed management; and (3) their opinions about how additional resources for weed management could be distributed. GAO limited this study to entities in the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, and California, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, and Mississippi, and gathered information through interviews of over 90 weed management officials.

All types of landowners--government and private--are involved in the battle against invasive weeds in natural areas and include federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service; state and local agencies such as those responsible for agriculture, natural resources, and transportation; and individuals who manage their lands for a variety of purposes, including production or preservation. In some cases, federal or state laws and regulations require that landowners and managers control specific regulated weeds. In other instances, land managers control weeds--including unregulated ones--to meet their larger responsibilities for natural resource conservation. Weed management entities rely on a wide range of funding sources to carry out their activities. The federal government is the largest source of funding through the general budgets of federal land management agencies and numerous grant programs for natural resource management. State and local agencies and nongovernmental entities often rely on a mix of their own funding, grant resources, and collaboration with other entities or volunteers to implement weed management projects. Not surprisingly, given the magnitude of the invasive weed problem, federal and nonfederal officials we questioned believed that the lack of consistent and adequate funding limits effective management of the problem. Specifically, some officials commented that funding needs to be consistent from year to year to ensure that invasive weeds are eradicated or kept in check, but available resources for weed management often fluctuate. In addition, some officials said that funding is sometimes received late in the year, beyond the point when effective actions can be taken. Other identified barriers to effective weed management included the requirement to comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements in order to conduct treatments, a lack of cooperation among entities needed to combat invasive weeds, and a general lack of awareness and public education on the issue. Posed with the prospect of a new program or funds for addressing invasive weeds, a majority of the federal and nonfederal officials who responded to our question preferred that existing programs be used to disburse additional funds. Several officials noted that a key factor for such an approach is to capitalize on existing relationships among current programs and weed management entities, rather than creating a new program. A majority of officials also believed that an agency within the Department of Agriculture should implement any new program or funding source, but that states should play a key role in determining how funds should be distributed. Some officials noted, however, that certain agencies have different expertise with regard to weeds and knowledge of local weed management entities. As we completed our review, a new law required the creation of a new program to provide funding by the Department of Agriculture for weed management. The law requires that the department rely on reviews by regional, state, and local experts when making funding decisions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On September 20, 2005, the Secretary of USDA signed a Delegation of Authority giving APHIS the authority to implement the Noxious Weed Control and Eradication Act. The Final Rule on delegation was published in the Federal Register on September 23, 2005. APHIS has drafted an implementation plan for the Act. It includes a Request for Proposals and a proposed review and selection process (including representation by federal, state, tribal, and APHIS personnel, and possible representation, as deemed appropriation by APHIS, of non-governmental organizations and universities). The draft plan also includes provisions for state plant health regulatory authorities (or similar tribal authorities) to be included in the management of projects selected for funding within their boundaries. The draft implementation plan is on file at APHIS pending funding. The U.S. Department of the Interior and USDA (and other) agencies with whom APHIS cooperates as members of the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds, as well as other stakeholder groups, were consulted in preparing the draft plan. Further consultation may be needed to finalize the plan for APHIS management approval upon an appropriation of funds to the program.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the new program under the Noxious Weed Control and Eradication Act is implemented effectively, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the implementing agency to collaborate with other USDA and Interior agencies that have experience managing invasive weeds in developing the mechanisms for allocating funds to weed management entities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: On September 20, 2005, the Secretary of USDA signed a Delegation of Authority giving APHIS the authority to implement the Noxious Weed Control and Eradication Act. The Final Rule on delegation was published in the Federal Register on September 23, 2005. APHIS has drafted an implementation plan for the Act. It includes a Request for Proposals and a proposed review and selection process (including representation by federal, state, tribal, and APHIS personnel, and possible representation, as deemed appropriation by APHIS, of non-governmental organizations and universities). The draft plan also includes provisions for state plant health regulatory authorities (or similar tribal authorities) to be included in the management of projects selected for funding within their boundaries. The draft implementation plan on file at APHIS pending funding. According to APHIS, the U.S. Department of the Interior and USDA (and other) agencies with whom APHIS cooperates as members of the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds, as well as other stakeholder groups, were consulted in preparing the draft plan. According to APHIS, further consultation may be needed to finalize the plan for APHIS management approval upon an appropriation of funds to the program. However, as of August 2009, no funds have been appropriated. Therefore, APHIS has not made any funding decisions.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the new program under the Noxious Weed Control and Eradication Act is implemented effectively, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the implementing agency to collaborate with other USDA and Interior agencies that have experience managing invasive weeds in determining what entities should receive such funding, using the agencies--along with other regional, state, and local experts--as technical advisers, as appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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