State officials throw their support behind ‘collaborative’ efforts to combat invasive species

The state spends $950K a year to fight invasive species, a top Wolf admin. official told a bicameral agency

By: - August 25, 2021 6:30 am

A Spotted Lanternfly (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Flickr photo).

From outdoor recreation and agriculture to forestry, invasive species are wreaking havoc on Pennsylvania, state officials and environmental experts testified before a legislative agency Tuesday. 

In a Center for Rural Pennsylvania hearing, state officials and environmental experts called for a “holistic approach” to addressing the commonwealth’s invasive species problems. 

The main perpetrators, the Spotted Lanternfly, Gypsy Moth, Emerald Ash Borer, Hydrilla and Reed Canarygrass are causing “expensive disruptions” to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ efforts to manage its more than 2.2 million acres of forests and 300,000 acres of park lands, Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn testified. 

“These are increasing over time and becoming even more of a threat as time goes on,” Dunn said, adding that “broad swaths” of public lands are being affected by invasive species. 

In her testimony to members of the bicameral legislative agency, Dunn said the DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks spends $950,000 annually on direct costs for invasive species suppression.

Pointing to New York State, which has adopted a PRISM, or Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management approach to dealing with invasive species at multiple levels, Dunn recommended Pennsylvania take a similar approach with other state agencies and local partners. 

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding agreed with Dunn on the need to develop a collaborative approach with other state agencies to mitigate the impact invasive species have on Pennsylvania. 

“This is a problem that can only be solved by working together in common purpose,” Redding said. “There are a number of different ways that we can combat the threat of invasive species and my ask here today is for us to be partners in combating that threat, identifying other resources, and support[ing] our efforts to work with federal partners to achieve these goals.” 

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director Timothy Schaeffer testified that approximately 200 documented aquatic invasive species have been found in Pennsylvania. Sixty of which are considered a “major threat to the commonwealth’s native resources.” 

Schaeffer also threw his support behind a PRISM or partnership approach.

“Comprehensive strategies for these pervasive, long-term threats to the commonwealth’s aquatic resources must be identified, and this will take a coordinated, interagency approach,” Schaeffer testified. 

While state officials looked to the future, a panel of experts didn’t mince words when discussing past and present hurdles to addressing the impacts of invasive species in Pennsylvania. 

“Success is more the exception than the rule,” Brian Pilarcik, a watershed specialist from Crawford County said. 

Pilarcik said he worries that changes in funding for mitigation efforts “could cause experts to lose ground in the fight against invasive species infestations.”

Pilarcik’s comments were echoed by Dr. Sara Grove, a professor of political science at Shippensburg University who, along with other researchers in 2018, embarked on a review of how governments addressed invasive species through policy and regulation. 

“Funding is inadequate,” Grove said, adding that governments have a “slow and reactionary” response to the threats posed by invasive species. 

Grove and her team said they came to the same conclusion as state officials, regarding the need for collaboration among state and local entities to combat invasive species. 

“Our policy case studies show the benefits of inter-agency cooperation and interstate coordination,” Grove said. “Management expertise and funding are critical because invasive species do not respect agency or state boundaries. Effective efforts to control and prevent the spread of invasive species require a holistic approach.”

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.