National Geographic : 2005 Mar
Further hampering prevention efforts in the U.S. is a lack of coordination between govern ment agencies, and the fact that agencies have multiple, sometimes conflicting mandates. The U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps the noxious-weed list, but focuses primarily on protecting agriculture and the nursery trade, not wilderness. Thus it took the USDA five years to list melaleuca, the highly invasive Australian paperbark tree that had converted 500,000 acres of native Florida wetlands to forest. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates the trade in wild animals, but it's also charged with promoting industries like aquaculture that are often responsible for introducing invasives. When three species of Asian carp escaped from catfish farms into the Mississippi River, Illinois petitioned the wildlife service to add Asian carp to the injurious wildlife list; aquaculturists lobbied against the listing. Three years later a decision is still pending. In the meantime, the U.S. and state governments are resorting to a nine-million-dollar electric barrier to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. State depart ments of fish and game, for their part, are charged with protecting the environment from invasives, but they often manage alien game spe cies such as feral pigs and exotic deer for hunters. Some experts believe the answer is a well funded national center for invasive species based on the Centers for Disease Control and Preven tion model. Though Congress took a first step in 1999, establishing the National Invasive Spe cies Council, it has remained underfunded. "As a society we've adopted an exclusively reactive mode," says David Lodge, an ecologist at the University of Notre Dame. "Invasives aren't like other forms of pollution. They don't stop spreading when you stop releasing them. They grow, and they grow in an accelerating manner. Doing nothing to prevent them is a par ticularly damaging policy."