Feds Helping V.I. Combat Invasive Species

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs recently awarded the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Fish and Wildlife $10,000 for the development of an invasive species action plan, according to DPNR.

The plan will provide guidance to local and federal governments on invasive marine and land-based species affecting the territory. The plan, due to be completed by the end of this year, will be authored by DPNR with contributions from the University of the Virgin Islands, the National Park Service, and other local and federal entities.

Representatives of the USVI, the U.S. Territories of Guam, American Samoa and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States Virgin Islands gathered in the Pacific in June for a first-of-its kind meeting to develop strategies on invasive species management in U.S. Insular Areas. The meeting was called by Assistant Secretary of Interior for Insular Affairs, Esther Kia’aina. Its purpose was for U.S. Insular Area representatives to interact with scientists from the Hawaii Invasive Species Council and to develop territorial-specific strategies on invasive species management for territorial governments.

Each insular area representative spoke on their island’s specific challenges and responses to combating the rapidly growing and damaging impact of invasive plants and animals.

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Ruth Gomez, director of DPNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and Colette Monroe, a policy advisor to Gov. Kenneth Mapp, spoke on behalf of the USVI. Gomez’ presentation outlined terrestrial, plant, and marine invasive species throughout the territory. Her presentation also concluded that invasive species did not fall exclusively under the mandate of any single agency in the USVI and would require a more comprehensive approach.

“In light of the findings, the USVI needs a more coordinated agency approach to address the silent assault by invasive species which are a serious threat to the USVI economy, the natural environment, and the health and lifestyle of our territory’s people and visitors. Please keep in mind that the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that is responsible for transmitting Zika, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, and other diseases is an invasive species,” Gomez said.

Experts from the Hawaii Invasive Species Council and the National Invasive Species Council shared best practices and resources and offered new approaches at preventing the introduction of non-native species into the islands. Guam and Hawaii are battling a palm-killing rhino beetle while Guam has already lost 83 percent of its birds to the brown tree snake.

Funding for this travel was made possible through a DOI OIA technical assistance grant. 

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