Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing titled “The Invasive Species Threat: Protecting Wildlife, Public Health, and Infrastructure.”

The hearing featured testimony from Slade Franklin, weed and pest state coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture; Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Fish and Game Department; and Joseph Rogerson, program manager for wildlife species conservation and research of the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife.

For more information on witness testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Today, we will consider the scourge of invasive species that threaten our communities – and how we can most effectively combat them.

“This hearing will also continue the committee’s work to support successful efforts to conserve wildlife, build infrastructure, and protect the public health.

“Invasive species have significant impacts on all three of these areas.

“Few issues are more bipartisan than the need to protect our communities from invasive species.

“Invasives are non-native species whose introduction causes harm to the local economy, and the environment, and to human health.

“More than 5,000 invasive species exist in the United States.

“They cause more than $120 billion of economic damage each year.

“According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: ‘every region of the United States has invasive species problems…Invasive species can be found from Alaska to Louisiana and from Maine to Texas. They can be found in our forests, fields, and wetlands, and in our streams, rivers and bays, and even off our coastlines.’

“Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in an attempt to eradicate invasive species.

“And each year, new threats from invasives emerge.

“Like the rest of the country, Wyoming finds itself coping with an extensive and expensive invasive species problem.

“Cheatgrass consumes vast amounts of water, degrades valuable soil and habitat, fuels catastrophic wildfires, and displaces vegetation –turning vibrant prairie communities into monocultures, leaving only cheatgrass as far as the eye can see.

“Russian Olive trees take over riparian areas across the state, absorbing massive amounts of water that would otherwise be used for wildlife and native species.

“The West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes that infects birds and mammals,including humans. 

“It’s an invasive species, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne illness in humans in the United States.

"In 2018, 2,544 cases of West Nile virus were reported in 49 states, including Wyoming.

“West Nile virus affects horses, dogs, and other animals, and causes millions of dollars in losses associated with treatment of the infection –and even death. 

“The environmental costs of invasive species are real as well.

“According to the National Wildlife Federation, 42 percent of threatened or endangered species are at risk because of invasives.

“West Nile virus threatens species like the sage grouse, which Wyoming and many other states are working hard to protect.

“The problem of invasive species is rampant and requires action.

“Last Congress, this committee examined innovative solutions to control invasive species with the goal of improving wildlife conservation efforts.

“We heard about cutting-edge technologies to more effectively control invasive species – from smart fish passage systems that keep invasive species out, to DNA technologies that detect invasives earlier.

“Together with Ranking Member Carper, and several other committee members, I introduced the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver Act, called the WILD Act, to support efforts to combat invasive species in several ways, including by reauthorizing the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and by requiring federal agencies to coordinate when planning and implementing invasive species-related activities.

“The WILD Act also incentivizes the development of cutting-edge technologies by establishing cash prizes for technological innovation in invasive species management.

“In 2017, the WILD Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

“Last month, we re-introduced the WILD Act.

“And last week, we again reported this important bill unanimously from the committee.

“Yesterday, the bill passed the Senate as part of the Omnibus Public Lands package.

“I look forward to it passing the House and being signed into law.

“I look forward to hearing from our three witnesses on what tools will be most helpful in protecting our wildlife, infrastructure, and public health from the scourge of invasive species.