Interior announces $3.4 million for brown tree snake control

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The Office of Insular Affairs has announced the release of $3,442,389 to suppress and control the brown tree snake on Guam and elsewhere.

The money is coming out of the Brown Tree Snake Control Program funding for fiscal year 2020.

The funds are divided among several federal, state, and territorial agencies that collaborate in support of the three pillars of brown tree snake suppression.

$1,229,296 is allocated to rapid response and research activities; $1,724,210 is used for interdiction; and $488,883 is spent on prevention through coordination and outreach.

U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Doug Domenech announced that the funds will support prevention, detection, and rapid response efforts in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Hawaii as well as contributing to research on efforts to improve the suppression and eradication efforts of the snake on Guam.

“Congressional support for the Brown Tree Snake Control program has been critical in suppressing this snake on Guam and preventing its spread to the CNMI, Hawaii, and the greater Micronesia region,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech.

“Controlling the BTS and other invasive species on Guam, CNMI, and other islands in the region is important for the protection of natural resources and the livelihood of insular area communities,” he said.

“The brown tree snake is testament to the havoc invasive species can wreak, particularly on islands. We have seen almost a dozen native bird and reptile species totally wiped out on Guam, and it is vital we do everything we can to stop this destructive snake from becoming established elsewhere,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith.

“This funding provides tangible and essential help to those on the front lines of this battle, including our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts who are working diligently with partners such as the Department of Defense, USDA, Smithsonian Institution, and the governments of Guam, CNMI and the state of Hawaii.”

“The people of the USGS are proud to partner with the Office of Insular Affairs and our island partners to continue our critical work to minimize the impacts of the invasive brown tree snakes on Guam,” said US Geological Survey Director Jim Reilly.

“Snake sightings in the Pacific will continue to be assessed through multi-agency rapid-response efforts and on-going research with our partners will help better detect brown tree snakes at low densities and to reduce their numbers on Guam.”

The Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) Brown Tree Snake Control program FY 2020 funding is divided among various partners as follows:

Guam Department of Agriculture – $125,000 will be used for a public awareness campaign, Kontra I Kulepbla! – Challenge the Snake!, designed to inspire behavior change among Guam’s population in support of BTS suppression. The awareness campaign project will continue with more hands-on outreach activities, increase presentations to target audiences, and conduct a mid-campaign survey to monitor any changes in knowledge, attitude, and practices on Guam. The grant funds 50% of a project manager position and 100% of a program assistant position as well as outreach supplies, equipment, and survey costs.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Wildlife Research Center – $210,961 will be used by the USDA to research and study snakes in different urban, savanna, and forest environments to determine the best way to target them for large scale suppression efforts and possible eradication.

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – $249,590 will be used to fund a USGS Rapid Response Coordinator position on Guam and for all BTS rapid response activities. The USGS coordinates responses to snake sightings on Guam, organizes and oversees training, and maintains a network of trained responders throughout the islands in the Micronesia region where there is potential for BTS transmission via shipping lines and airways.

Hawaii Department of Agriculture – $296,727 is provided in support of Hawaii’s BTS interdiction program, which includes three canine detection teams, surveillance and monitoring of high-risk port areas, and rapid response as needed. OIA’s funding is used to support the canine program and for inspection of flights that arrive outside of normal working hours.

U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – $363,883 will be used by FWS who works with all federal and local agencies to coordinate BTS interdiction and research. FWS also provides direct oversight of the CNMI and HI programs, and technical expertise to OIA in the management of BTS funds. FWS also leads both the Technical Working Group and Research Group for the BTS control program.

CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources – $399,792 is provided to the CNMI BTS interdiction program which funds seven inspectors (five on Saipan, two on Rota, and one on Tinian) who conduct inspections on planes, vessels, and cargo at airports and seaports. The team maintains 182 traps at the airports and seaports on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, conducts rapid response activities, and handles community outreach on BTS interdiction activities. Public outreach campaigns include the song “Don’t Give Snakes a Break” that plays regularly on the radio and stickers advertising the snake-sighting hotline 28-SNAKE.

U.S. Geological Survey BTS Research – $768,745 will be used to fund research for Landscape Scale Suppression and Early Detection and Rapid Response projects, such as evaluating the Aerial Bait Delivery System (ADS), testing alternative bait for the ADS system to target and kill larger snakes, searching for BTS DNA in high-risk environments, and evaluating whether bait tubes or traps are the most effective way to kill snakes.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Wildlife Services – $1,027,690 was previously provided to USDA APHIS to conduct BTS control and interdiction activities in and around commercial activities operated by the Government of Guam and private entities throughout FY 2020. USDA APHIS conducts inspections at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, the Commercial Port of Guam, and several privately-owned freight-forwarding companies while also monitoring more than 950 BTS traps at the airport, seaport, and other key locations on Guam. APHIS also conducts regular canine-inspection activities at ports and other critical locations and related BTS monitoring and outreach activities.

Over the past four years, the Office of Insular Affairs has provided more than $12 million for the Brown Tree Snake Control program.

For details on funding during the past three fiscal years, see the following links: 2017, 2018, and 2019.

For additional FY 2020 funding provided by OIA to combat invasive species in the insular areas, visit https://www.doi.gov/oia/press/interior-awards-942206-eradicate-invasive-species-insular-areas.

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