The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) this week proclaimed August as "Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month." During August, APHIS will raise awareness about the threat that invasive plant pests and diseases pose to America's agricultural and natural resources and will urge residents to help stop their spread.
"Preventing foreign pests and diseases from entering the United States and looking for those that are here already are critical functions of APHIS," said Gregory Parham, APHIS administrator. "Invasive pests and diseases can impact our communities and the natural landscape, jeopardize the livelihood of our farmers, ranchers and foresters, and alter our ecosystems. During the month of August, we will share information and tools so that everyone can learn more about these threats and help us take action in the fight against invasive pests."
Concerned citizens can find a list of specific actions they can take to protect our nation's agricultural and ecological health in the APHIS factsheet "Attack of the Invasive Species" at www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/plant_health. You can also visit www.HungryPests.com to learn more about invasive pests.
Invasive species can cause harm to the economy, the environment and human health. From Americans returning from foreign travel, to arriving cargo on ships, there is always the potential for dangerous plant pests and microorganisms to enter the country. Many of these pests and diseases have already seriously harmed U.S. industry and urban and rural landscapes. Some scientists estimate that the economic impacts from invasive species exceed $1 billion annually in the United States, in addition to the damage they cause to hundreds of millions of acres of native ecosystems.
Invasive pests grow and spread rapidly. They disrupt the areas they invade by pushing out native species, reducing biological diversity, killing forest trees, placing other species at increased risk of extinction, altering wildfire intensity and frequency, damaging crops, closing foreign markets to U.S. products from infested areas and costing industry and government millions of dollars in treatments and other response and control efforts. These invaders could ruin your favorite outdoor activity or, depending on how you earn it, your livelihood.
APHIS safeguards U.S. agricultural and natural resources from risks associated with the entry, establishment or spread of agricultural pests and diseases, as well as invasive and harmful weeds. Through its many safeguarding activities overseas, on the border and across the country, APHIS helps to ensure a diverse natural ecosystem and an abundant and healthy food supply for all Americans.
But APHIS can't do it alone. Individual citizens play a vital role protecting U.S. agriculture and the environment from invasive pests.