USDA Invokes Emergency Powers to Stop the Introduction of Non-Native Pests That Attack Palm Trees

February 10, 2010

Action Taken While Revamped Regulations to Help Stop Foreign Pests Are Under Review

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a federal import quarantine order that will prohibit the importation of several palm tree species from all foreign countries until a pest risk analysis has been completed This federal order will be implemented beginning today, and will continue until it is determined whether effective risk mitigation measures exist.

Invoking this federal order is permitted by the Plant Protection Act of June 20, 2000, which authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture “to prohibit or restrict the importation or entry of any plant, plant part, or article if the Secretary determines that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to prevent the entry of a plant pest or noxious weed into the United States.”

“We are heartened by the USDA’s proactive measure to prevent this country’s palm trees from being decimated by these invasive pests,” says Frank Lowenstein, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Forest Health Program. “This is a preview of how the USDA’s proposed revamped regulations can work to stop non-native pests and diseases before they reach our shores and cause irreparable harm to millions of trees and plants.”

The Nature Conservancy, working with industry partners and scientists, is supporting revamped regulations proposed by USDA in 2009 to improve its ongoing efforts to block non-native insects and diseases from entering the country and protect American homeowners, businesses, agriculture and native trees.

The USDA rules would create a new category called NAPPRA (Not Authorized for Importation Pending Pest Risk Assessment) which could quickly stop the import of plants that potentially host these invasive pests. The original regulations were first adopted more than 90 years ago and have remained fundamentally unchanged while plant imports have grown to 500 million a year.

“Without this federal order, we could begin witnessing palm trees dying or being cut down as a result of these pests throughout the states where palm trees line boulevards and beaches, and grace the yards of homes,” says Faith Campbell, senior policy representative at the Conservancy. “We don’t want to see any more trees go the way of the American chestnut, the hemlock, or the dogwood trees, which have been either totally or partially eliminated because of foreign pests.”

The harmful plant pests that have been identified as posing a threat to several species of palm trees are Rhynchophorus ferrugineus Olivier (Red Palm Weevil), which originated in Southeast Asia, and R. palmarum Linnaeus (Giant Palm Weevil) and Bursaphelenchus cocophilus Cobb (Red Ring Nematode) both originating in Central and South America. The plant genera that will be prohibited from being imported because of their potential to be hosts of these pests have been identified by the USDA as Acrocomia, Astrocaryum, Attalea, Bactris, Brahea, Butia, Calamus, Chamerops, Desmoncus, Euterpe, Manicaria, Mauritia, Metroxylon, Oncosperma, Roystonea, Sabal, and Washingtonia.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at www.nature.org.

The Continental Dialogue on Non-Native Forest Insects and Diseases is a group of organizations and individuals that cultivates and catalyzes collaborative action among diverse interests to abate the threat to North American forests from non-native insects and diseases.

To learn about the Plant Smart campaign and for tips on how the nursery industry and consumers can help prevent the spread of invasive foreign pests, visit www.plantsmart.org in the coming weeks.

SOURCE The Nature Conservancy

Source: newswire

comments powered by Disqus