Scientists, lawyers & bureaucrats: Will the new federal policy for harmful invasive species help?

Professor Marc Miller
Emory Law School, Georgia

Friday, August 11, 2000
12:00 Noon—Pacific Forum

Among all environmental issues, harmful invasive species may be the area where the legal and policy response to the problem is most out of whack with the threat posed to environment and the economy. Estimates of the number of invasive species in the United States range from 4,500 to over 50,000, with some estimates of economic harm exceeding $100 billion per year.

Scientists, lawyers and policy-makers have all been slow to recognize and respond to this threat and have failed to work together to develop wise invasive species policies. The first modern federal effort to establish a general invasive species policy did not occur until 1977 when President Carter issued a short, brilliant Executive Order (an odd species of law) on alien species that was never implemented and soon forgotten.

In February 1999 President Clinton signed a new Executive Order (13112) creating National Invasive Species Council, authorizing an Invasive Species Advisory Committee, and mandating the creation of a national invasive species management plan. The jury is out on this new effort. The draft management plan appeared on July 11, 2000. Does the plan reflect good science? Sound law and policy? How can we tell?

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