GAO Testimony, June 21, 2006: Invasive Forest Pests

On April 21, 2006, Daniel Bertoni, Acting Director, Natural Resources and Environment, Government Accounting Office (GAO), provided testimony before the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. His testimony follows two recent GAO Reports on this topic:

It's sort of a good news (little), bad news (more), report.

First, there's some hopeful news regarding Anoplophora glabripennis, the Asian longhorned beetle, or "ALB":

On the basis of the available evidence, it appears that the Asian longhorned beetle will be eradicated in the three states that have infestations, although funding reductions have extended the likely completion date. ...

The "three states that have infestations" are New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. However, ALB has been detected near ports of entry throughout the United States, including Florida, Texas, California and Washington states.

Not so good news on EAB and Sudden Oak Death:

... In contrast, the emerald ash borer and P. ramorum--the pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death--are likely to continue to infest and damage forest ecosystems in the Midwest and on the West Coast, despite efforts to control them. ...

And some observations on how things got so bad:

... We identified areas of vulnerability that we believe increase the risk of future forest pest infestations. Specifically, we found that despite efforts to expand USDA's forest health monitoring programs, they do not adequately provide for comprehensive monitoring in urban forests or other locations considered at high risk from pest invasions. Monitoring in such areas is important because they are common destination points for internationally traded cargo, which is a frequent pathway for pests. Improvements could help prevent situations such as those experienced with the Asian longhorned beetle, the emerald ash borer, and P. ramorum, in which years of delay in detection allowed them to become established before control programs began. In our report on port inspections, we found that DHS has not used a risk-based staffing model to assign newly hired agricultural specialists to ports of entry. As a result, DHS does not have assurance that staff are assigned to areas of greatest vulnerability. ...

Resources, Links, and References:

  • Invasive Forest Pests: Recent Infestations and Continued Vulnerabilities at Ports of Entry Place U.S. Forests at Risk, GAO-06-871T, June 21, 2006. All quotes above are from the Abstract.
  • Asian Longhorned Beetle at the University of Vermont is comprehensive and accessible. Their identification page, with comparative photos of ALB and similar and easily confused species, is excellent.

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