Spring is a time of new beginnings, and Washington’s unseasonably cold winter of 2014 notwithstanding, a new organization promoting non-regulatory solutions to invasive species problems is emerging. Invasive species of plants, animals, and disease organisms are a $125 billion annual dragon the US economy, have contributed to the plight of 42% of the species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, and have sickened thousands of Americans. That’s a lot of economic cost, ecological damage, public health menace, and regulatory burden imposed by invasive species.
The Reduce Risks from Invasive Species Coalition (RRISC) was incorporated in the District of Columbia on March 7, and will soon be filing with IRS for recognition as a 501(c)(3) organization. I am pleased to have been elected the President of RRISC on March 24. The mission of RRISC is to educate Americans on the risks posed by invasive species to the economy, environment, and public health of the United States, and to promote cost-effective strategies to reduce those risks. RRISC’s vision is to engage a broad-based group of stakeholders and all levels of government in non-regulatory risk-based strategies to address invasive species problems.
RRISC’s primary focus will be education, since most invasive species problems begin with someone unintentionally letting the proverbial genie out of the bottle without realizing the potential damage that action might cause. A better educated public is less likely to let zebra mussels stow away on the hulls of recreational boats and thereby infect new watersheds. A more knowledgeable public is less likely to unknowingly transport the seeds of noxious weeds from one ecosystem to another. Similarly, a more informed Congress is more likely to give the invasive species issue the attention it deserves.
Creating a meaningful regional capability for early detection and rapid response to new invasive species introductions is a very ecologically efficient and cost-effective tool to prevent invasive species problems from getting out of hand. RRISC will be working with a variety of partners, including the state land grant universities, to cultivate a national network of such regional capabilities.
One of the tenets of RRISC is that the private sector is most definitely a large part of the solution to invasive species problems. As a result, the coalition will promote goods, services, and management best practices of member firms and associations that are making a positive contribution to reducing risks from invasive species.
RRISC intends to demonstrate that substantial benefits and risk reduction that can be achieved by pursuing nonregulatory solutions to a major global environmental problem. To learn more, and become part of the solution, visit RRISC.