Invasive species can be actively managed through cross-boundary management efforts
Invasive species have an impact of between $150 and $180 billion to the United States economy every year, said Scott Cameron of the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of the Assistant Secretary in Policy, Management and Budget Office.
“That’s a hole in the bucket that we can barely fill,” Cameron said, “and it’s drilling holes in every boat we have to float on conversation.”
Invasive species impact the environment, human health, plant health, culture, infrastructure, national security and more.
“The impacts of invasive weed footprint – ecologically and economically – are 23 times larger than the top 10 wildfires in recorded history added together,” he noted.
In 2015, the U.S. Forest Service spent more in wildlife suppression than total U.S. government expenditures on invasive species.
“Something is backwards,” Cameron commented, “and we’re up against a big, big threat. This impacts pretty much everything we do.”
“We have to step it up and scale it up to confront this challenge,” Cameron said, noting that the concept of landscape scale management to address invasive species isn’t complicated.
The size of landscape scale isn’t easily defined, but rather, he said the idea is to not be too narrowly focused in coming up with a solution.
As an example, Cameron looked at the question of sage grouse and invasive species.
“Largely, this was thought of as a wildlife problem. The players who have the ability to control policy and programs to the number one threat – weeds – are coming from the state Departments of Agriculture,” he described. “Now that we’ve all come together, it’s working much better.”
He also looked at the impact of the emerald ash borer.
While some communities might not think they will be impacted because they don’t have ash trees, Cameron says, “Think of a baseball bat. Those are made from ash trees. Native Americans also need black ash for traditional baskets and snowshoes. They lose their culture from the invasive insect.”
The impacts of invasive species are often farther reaching than many people consider, and to address the problems created by invasives, a holistic view is necessary.
Geographically, landscape scale involves all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and landscapes using a variety of cooperative management organizations.
“Players who come together across a geographic area join forces and find success,” Cameron said, noting Cooperative Weed Management Associations are an example of successful efforts. “Groups bring money, ideas, equipment and solutions together, and a common ends up becoming a whole.”
“We’ve heard the ‘all hands, all lands’ concept is not unique to conservation,” he said. “This is a global problem. We have to look internationally.”
Building relationships will allow people to find solutions, Cameron continued, saying, It’s human nature to come together and work together. We’re social in nature, and we’re best at solving problems when working together.”
Cameron emphasized that collaborating outside of traditional circles of influence is important.
“We all are guilty of asking, what’s in it for us, but we have to ask what’s in it for my neighbor and how we can help them,” he said. “Success is based on how we work with other, collaborating across disciplines, concepts and perspectives.”
By coming together and building and sharing efforts, success can be achieved, says Cameron.
“Our best work is always done in collaboration with others,” said Cameron. “There’s no doubt that starting small is the first step we have to take, but as it grows, more and more will have to join in.”
He added, “These are the steps we have to take to be successful when addressing invasive species.”
He encourages starting small and doing what is necessary and doable, which will lead to higher levels of achievement through collaboration.
“We don’t have to reorganize our organizations to achieve this collaboration,” Cameron said. “We just have to reorganize the way we think about these problems and work together.”
Cameron spoke during a roundtable on “Cross-Boundary Invasive Species Management” at the Western Working Lands Forum, sponsored by the Western Governors’ Association.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.