From Pickerel Pond to Lake Auburn, from Sebago Lake to Bryant Pond, lakes and ponds in Maine are under attack. Aquatic invasive species threaten Maine’s drinking water systems, recreation, wildlife habitat, lakefront real estate, and fisheries. Plants, such as Variable Leaf Milfoil, are crowding out native species. Invasive Asian shore crabs are taking over Southern New England’s tidal pools and have advanced well into Maine – to the potential detriment of our state’s lobster and clam industries.

To address this problem, I have introduced the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act with Senator Carl Levin of Michigan to create the most comprehensive nationwide approach to date for combating alien species that invade our shores.

The stakes are high when invasive species are unintentionally introduced into our nation’s waters. They endanger ecosystems, reduce biodiversity, and threaten native species. They disrupt people’s lives and livelihoods by lowering property values, impairing commercial fishing and aquaculture, degrading recreational experiences and damaging public water supplies.

Past invasions forewarn of the long-term consequences to our environment and communities unless we take steps to prevent new invasions. It is too late to stop European green crabs from taking hold on the East Coast, but we still have the opportunity to prevent many other species from taking hold in Maine and the United States.

When considering the impact of these invasive species, it is important to note the tremendous value of our lakes and ponds. While their contribution to our culture and quality of life is priceless, their value to our economy is more measurable. Maine’s Great Ponds generate nearly 13 million recreational user days each year, lead to more than $1.2 billion in annual income for Maine residents, and support more than 50,000 jobs.

With so much at stake, Mainers are taking action. The State of Maine has made it illegal to sell, possess, cultivate, import, or introduce eleven invasive aquatic plants. Boaters who participate in the Maine Lake and River Protection Sticker program provide the needed funding that aid efforts to prevent, detect, and manage aquatic invasive plants. Volunteers enable the Courtesy Boat Inspection program to help keep aquatic invasive plants out of Maine lakes. Before launch or after removal, inspectors ask boaters for permission to inspect the boat, trailer, or other equipment for plants. More than 300 trained inspectors conducted upwards of 30,000 courtesy boat inspections at 65 lakes in the 2004 boating season.

While I am proud of the actions that our state is taking to protect against invasive species, federal action is required as well. Protecting the integrity of our lakes, streams, and coastlines from invading species cannot be accomplished by individual states alone. We need a uniform, nationwide approach to deal effectively with invasive species. The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2005 will help Maine and other states throughout the nation detect, prevent, and respond to aquatic invasive species.

The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2005 would be the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken to address the threat of invasive species. By authorizing $836 million over six years, this legislation would open numerous new fronts in our war against invasive species. It would provide $30 million per year for a grant program to assist state efforts to prevent the spread of invasive species. It would allocate another $30 million each year for research, education, and outreach. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $12 million per year to contain and control invasive species. Six million dollars per year would be allotted for the Coast Guard to develop and implement regulations that will end the unchecked voyage of invasive species into U.S. waters through the ballast water of international ships. Finally, our bill would establish a national monitoring network to detect newly introduced species, while providing $25 million to the Secretary of the Interior to create a rapid response fund to help states and regions respond quickly once invasive species have been detected.

The most effective means of stopping invading species is to attack them before they attack us; and the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2005 offers a strong framework to combat these damaging species. We must protect our waters, ecosystems, and industries from destructive invasive species – before it’s too late.

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