Invasive forest pests have seriously harmed our environment and imposed significant costs upon our economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the lead agency for responding to forest pests. This report evaluates the federal response to three invasive forest pests--the Asian longhorned beetle, the emerald ash borer, and the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum). Specifically, GAO describes (1) the status of efforts to eradicate these species, (2) the factors affecting the success of those efforts, (3) overall forest health monitoring programs, (4) coordination and communication of the three pest response efforts, and (5) USDA's use of panels of scientific experts to aid in the response efforts.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Agriculture||1. To improve federal efforts to detect, manage, and eradicate infestations of invasive forest pests, the Secretary of Agriculture should expand current efforts to monitor forest health conditions, particularly in urban and suburban areas that are at high risk of receiving invasive insects and diseases. USDA's monitoring program should incorporate guidance on early detection issued by the National Invasive Species Council in 2003.|
|Department of Agriculture||2. To improve federal efforts to detect, manage, and eradicate infestations of invasive forest pests, the Secretary of Agriculture should prepare, publish, and regularly update management plans for pests for which the department has initiated a management program. The plans and their updates should incorporate and describe changes in the extent of infestation; progress to date in control and eradication efforts; schedules for future control and eradication efforts, given known levels of funding; and future long-term funding needs. For the P. ramorum program in particular, an updated management plan should include the elements called for by law that were not included in USDA's 2005 plan, such as an estimate of the cost of anticipated activities.|
|Department of Agriculture||3. To improve federal efforts to detect, manage, and eradicate infestations of invasive forest pests, the Secretary of Agriculture should implement written procedures that broadly define when and how to operate panels of scientific experts for the purpose of assisting pest management teams, including a discussion on how to determine when such panels should be chartered as advisory committees under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.|