Invasive Species Invading National Parks According to New Study

Invasive Red Imported Fire Ants at Congaree National Park   Photo: NPS

CNN reported last week that a new study warns that the unaddressed problem of invasive (non-native) animal species in National Parks is threatening many parks — that are now being overwhelmed with rats, domesticated cats, feral hogs and many other non-native animals that also thrive there.  Scientists from within the Department of Interior and several universities found that of the 1,409 reported populations of invasive species in National Parks, only 11% are under control.

Why This Matters:  There is a backlog of maintenance projects at National Parks across the U.S. totaling nearly $12B – and those are just for maintenance of roads and facilities, not eradicating invasive species.  Individual park units are struggling to deal with the threat of invasive terrestrial and aquatic animal species, but what they need is a nationwide effort to provide the resources and capacity needed to address this huge challenge. These parks are our national heritage, after all, and a huge economic driver too.  Tourists don’t want to encounter rats and feral cats on their visits, and we all will lose if this problem is allowed to continue.

The Threat is Pervasive

The threat posed by invasive and nuisance animals is not limited to one region of the country.  Indeed, the authors found that it is nationwide and thus requires a system-wide approach to deal with it.   The study’s authors offer two main approaches to deal with the problem — working with local communities and capitalizing on new technologies.

“Public engagement, cooperation and support is also critical and can be accomplished through strategic engagement efforts. Finally, the National Park Service would benefit from the development of an invasive animal program that includes structured decision support, adaptive management and monitoring, the organizational structure to meet the highest needs, and capitalizing on the significant opportunities that exist through the appropriate use of emerging technologies.”

According to CNN, National Parks have banned introducing nonnative species into parks since 1968, but animals still cross into from the surrounding area, thus working with neighboring landowners and communities is key.

To Go Deeper: Check out the National Park Service’s tips on how to ensure you don’t bring an invasive species into a park accidentally.

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