Bills speed up response in invasive species eradication

Coconut rhinoceros beetles have been attacking coconut trees on Guam since it was first discovered on the island in 2007. (Photo from the UOG-CNAS Guam Rhinoceros Beetle Project)

Guam – Recognizing the importance of rapid response in preventing newly discovered invasive species from spreading throughout the island, the legislature introduced two measures providing a funding and procurement mechanism to respond quickly to these threats.

Sen. Sabina Perez introduced Bills 89-35 and 90-35, to improve GovGuam’s procurement ability when facing environmental challenges.

“Procurement problems are destroying our environment,” said Perez. “These measures will provide GovGuam personnel with the tools they need to protect our island from environmental threats,” she added.

CRB and LFAs

Perez mentioned the coconut rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros), and the Little Fire Ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) as two examples of how delays in the procurement process contribute to the spread of invasive species.

The CRB was first discovered on Guam in 2007. The invasive insect, at first,  stayed mainly in the Lower Tumon area. The Department of Agriculture attempted to quarantine and completely eradicate the CRB before it spread further.

The department requested to buy traps and equipment but it would be six months before the purchasing requests were completed. During the six-month delay, the CRB had spread beyond Tumon.

By 2010, the invasive beetle had spread to all other parts of the island.

The LFA was first found on Guam in November 2011, in a landfill in Yigo. Again, agriculture immediately put out a request to buy pesticides and application equipment. It took until June 2013 before the governor issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency. The EO allowed the purchase to move forward.

Invasive species fund

Bill 89-35 proposes creating an Invasive Species Rapid Response Fund. Around $75,000 from the existing Guam Invasive Species Fund will be transferred into the rapid response fund. According to the senator’s office the invasive species fund is “supposed to generate $2M annually from surcharges on incoming cargo.”

Perez said the intention is to use both funds in tandem.

The Research Corporation of the University of Guam (RCUOG) will manage the newly created. RCUOG has experience administering large grants and funds in an expeditious way. The Department of Agriculture director, who is a member of the Guam Invasive Species Council, will monitor fund expenditures.

“It is important we respond to the threat of invasive species with the same speed with which we respond to all emergencies. Invasive species can ruin industries, livelihoods, and our ecosystem,” said Senator Perez.

Bill 90-35 allows the Governor to authorize emergency procurement when facing threats to the environment.

Current Guam law allows the Governor to authorize emergency procurement for “a threat to public health, welfare, or safety”.  According to Perez, Bill 90-35 will extend this clause to also include “health or safety of the environment.”

By doing so, she said the Governor may now act sooner when facing serious environmental threats, and not wait before justifying that an environmental threat poses public health or safety risks.

Bill 90-35 also improves transparency in the emergency procurement process. Perez said that current emergency procurement provisions do not provide enough transparency, leaving room for potential abuse.

“Bill 90-35 improves transparency in the emergency procurement process, and provides greater safeguards to protect the public trust,” she said.