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TABLE OF CONTENTS for this page

I.   Overview
II.  Welcome and Background
  Early Warning and Rapid Response System Models in other Fields

Global Early Warning System For Invasive Species
North American/Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network
Infectious Human Diseases: Tracking Invaders in Public Health
Livestock Pests and Diseases
Agricultural Plant Pests
Wildlife Pests and Diseases
Discussion of Presentations

IV.  Vision for a National Early Warning and Rapid Response System
V.  Working Groups

Scientific Aspects of Early Warning (Early Detection, Reporting, Identification, Vouchering, Notification, and Information Management)
Rapid Assessment
Rapid Response
Public Outreach and Access to Information
Operational Aspects of Early Warning
Observations and Comments on Working Group Presentations

VI.  Next Steps and Action Items

I. Overview

To help counter the threat posed by invasive plants, The Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW) conducted a workshop to lay the groundwork and to obtain stakeholder input for creation of a National Early Warning and Rapid Response System for Invasive Plants in the United States. The ultimate goal is to ensure that new and emerging invasive plants in all U.S. ecosystems are reported, assessed, and addressed as soon as possible. Timely knowledge of new county, state, and national plant records will better enable officials and organizations on the local, state, and federal levels, as well as private land owners to take appropriate action against newly emerging invasive plants.

Building on three FICMNEW National Weed Summits in 1995 and 1996, the first FICMNEW Planning Retreat in Shepherdstown, WV, in 1998, and other subsequent related projects, the Committee convened a workshop to begin the development of the proposed system.

The workshop was held at the U.S. Geological Survey, Midcontinent Ecological Science Center (called FORT today) in Fort Collins, Colorado, on June 21-23, 2000. It was facilitated by Paul De Morgan, a Senior Mediator with RESOLVE, Inc., with assistance from Jeff Citrin, an Associate with RESOLVE. The workshop was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Geological Survey in the Department of the Interior.

The goals of the workshop were to:

Further develop the concept of a National Early Warning and Rapid Response System;

Develop the functional elements of a national system; and

Identify and discuss next steps in the development of a national system.

The workshop began with a series of presentations to provide context for development of the early warning system. These presentations included consideration of various models of early warning and rapid response systems used for pests of agriculture, and diseases of wildlife, livestock, and humans. A draft early warning concept paper was then introduced and discussed.

On the second day of the workshop, participants broke into working groups related to the five functional elements of the proposed system. Guided by the objectives and special considerations identified by the Workshop Steering Committee, and building on issues emerging from the presentations on Wednesday, working group members were asked to flesh out the functional elements as components of a nationwide system. On the final meeting day, the working groups reported to the plenary and discussed next steps in developing and implementing a nationwide system.

Workshop organizers recognized the importance of cooperation with state and local partnerships to the successful implementation of a National Early Warning and Rapid Response Plan for Invasive Plants. Consequently invited participants at the meeting included representatives of foreign, federal, state, and local agricultural and land management agencies, environmental groups, the private sector, academia, international intergovernmental organizations, and other federal agencies. A list of participants is included in the appendices of the proceedings.

II. Welcome and Background

Executive Committee members Deborah Hayes (USDA), Randy Westbrooks, and Bill Gregg (both USGS), welcomed participants and noted the context and scope of discussion to be covered at the workshop. Dr. Hayes observed that the need for an early warning system for invasive plant species has been discussed for well over a decade. She stated that although some of the invited participants were unable to attend, they will be informed through the proceedings of the meeting and their input will be solicited. The importance of broader stakeholder consultation, which would take place at a later stage, was also mentioned. Dr. Westbrooks encouraged participants to be innovative and "think outside of the box" in their consideration of strategies for developing a national system. Mr. De Morgan then noted the considerable work done by many individuals – some of whom were in the room – on the issues to be addressed and that the workshop would build on these efforts.

III. Early Warning and Rapid Response System Models in other Fields

Following these introductory remarks, participants heard from invited speakers on existing and in-process models for early warning and rapid response to invasive species and diseases, on national, regional, and global scales.

Global Early Warning System for Invasive Species

Laurie Neville (Stanford University) briefed participants on the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) (GISP is now defunct, see now under development by an international consortium of organizations and individuals of diverse expertise. She explained that the GISP effort includes a global invasive species database (that covers all taxa) and an early warning system to facilitate prevention as well as control and eradication of such species. She noted that the GISP consortium seeks to establish additional partnerships to assist expanding the scope of the Programme and obtain additional resources to move forward. In response to a participant’s question, Dr. Neville cited the value of donated data and stated that the database will be shared.

North American/Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network

Jim Quinn (University of California, Davis) discussed several initiatives designed to integrate environmental data for use in public policy decision-making. The Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN) is a pilot project to assist in the identification, assessment, and control of invasive species in the Americas. He explained that developers discovered that because several types of registries are available, a common structure and language are needed for consistent reference. Dr. Quinn also provided information on the North American Biodiversity Information Network(NABIN) (now defunct), a parallel system for sharing biological information developed under the environmental side agreements of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). He introduced The Species Analyst, a distributed database for biodiversity information, linking institutions, and serving data to all potential users, which is a feature of the NABIN. Species Analyst facilitates integration of species location data from museum collections and other sources with associated data on environmental conditions, to model habitats potentially suitable for particular species.

Infectious Human Diseases: Tracking Invaders in Public Health

Chet Moore (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reviewed his agency’s approach to identifying, tracking, preventing, and controlling emerging and re-emerging human disease. He cited domestic and international partnerships and enhancing the capacity of these partners as vital to these efforts. GIS and satellite imagery are among the tools used to identify risk factors. Dr. Moore suggested participants consult the CDC’s Preventing Emerging Infectious Diseases: Strategy for the 21st Century – as a resource for further information.

Livestock Pests and Diseases: Veterinary Services Activities Regarding Foreign or Emerging Infectious Animal Diseases

Vickie Bridges (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Veterinary Services) discussed her agency’s approach to early detection, reporting, rapid assessment, and rapid response of foreign and emerging infectious animal diseases. APHIS tracks and responds to veterinarians’ reports of rare diseases. She explained that multi-disciplinary teams for Emergency Management Leadership and for Early Response as well as a Regional Emergency Animal Disease Eradication Organization are in place and available to rapidly assess and respond to outbreaks. These teams are supported by response plans, available for a variety of situations, that contain prepared, off-the-shelf response strategies. These plans include tools such as draft press releases and draft memos for use by the Secretary of Agriculture in such cases. For more information, Dr. Bridges suggested participants examine the APHIS Veterinary Services website and in particular the section on emergency programs and the Center for Emerging Programs at <>.

Agricultural Plant Pests

Al Tasker (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - Plant Protection and Quarantine) explained that that PPQ has many systems for surveillance, assessment, and response of crop pests. Dr. Tasker provided the example of Caulerpa taxifolia, which, despite being identified in San Francisco Bay only days earlier, was already under study by a state led task force working to delimit the infestation and determine a proper course of action for addressing it. He also provided an overview of the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) program, which is a joint effort between APHIS, state departments of agriculture, and certain land grant universities. Data generated from CAP surveys are entered into the National Agricultural Pest Information System (NAPIS), a database that is maintained by Purdue University. While some components of NAPIS are available on the internet, full access to the database is by subscription only.

Wildlife Pests and Diseases

Chris Franson (USGS) briefed participants on the work of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, which conducts experimental research as well as diagnostic testing for infectious agents on wildlife, both in the field and laboratory. As an example, he described the effort surrounding the West Nile Virus in the northeastern states, and discussed the state/federal interagency surveillance group in which the Center participates. For more information, Dr. Franson suggested participants check the National Wildlife Health Center’s web page.

Discussion of Presentations

In the discussion that followed these presentations, it was noted that:

    • The experience with the West Nile Virus has helped to clarify roles, allowing for information sharing, and forging informal linkages between CDC, APHIS, USGS, and other agencies in some of their early warning/ surveillance activities.
    • The use of regulated pesticides is often an important option in emergency situations where invasive species have been observed. Potential needs for the use of such materials should be documented before emergencies occur (e.g., in response plans) and therefore, improve coordination with the EPA in such situations.
    • Surveillance and early warning Web sites and listservs should be archived (e.g., with an archiving program such as PathFinder) so that postings can be consulted when needed at later dates.
    • Additional web pages identified as potentially useful to participants included: APHIS Noxious Weed Home Page and the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project.

IV. Vision for a National Early Warning and Rapid Response System

In this session, Dr. Hayes discussed the need for a National Early Warning and Rapid Response System in terms of national policy. She noted that Executive Order #13112 specifically mentions the need for early warning and rapid response abilities. Similarly, the National Invasive Species Council (NISC), the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC), and FICMNEW all cite development of early warning and rapid response capabilities as priorities. She pointed out that the Plant Protection Act covers both environmental (e.g., natural resource) and agricultural issues, so a variety of interests and agencies are likely to be involved. Dr. Hayes also noted that ornamental plants and pet animal species are inadequately addressed under current program to prevent and control invasive exotic species.

Dr. Bill Gregg spoke on the science framework of a National Early Warning and Rapid Response System for Invasive Plants. He noted that while there are some programs to combat established invasive species are expanding, the resources to develop new technologies for early detection (e.g., remote sensing of new infestations) and rapid assessment of new species are insufficient.

Finally, Dr. Westbrooks introduced the five functional elements of a National Early Warning and Rapid Response System, as envisioned in the Early Warning Concept Paper, that was provided to workshop participants, and briefly reviewed case studies on common crupina (Crupina vulgaris) in Idaho and giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) which is being spread as a contaminant in aquatic ornamental plants.

In the discussion of overarching issues and reaction to the concept paper that followed, participants agreed that long-established horticultural plants now becoming invasive should be included in discussion of the National Early Warning and Rapid Response System. Funding issues were also of concern to many participants. It was noted that programs seeking funds from the federal government should remember that agencies are now planning budgets for Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003. Although the potential lag in funding is an important consideration, some agency funds are more flexible than others, especially those assigned to emergency management. Participants were instructed that financial issues should not constrain workshop discussions.

V. Workshop Working Groups

Participants were divided into five Working Groups, each of which was assigned to flesh out the key components of one of the functional elements. Participants spent the majority of the second day meeting in their Working Groups. In the middle of the afternoon, participants reconvened in two large groups to present draft reports and receive feedback. After this session, participants reconvened in their Working Groups to prepare short written reports and presentations to be given to the plenary session on the following morning.

Scientific Aspects of Early Warning (Early Detection, Reporting, Identification, Vouchering, Notification, and Information Management)

The Scientific Aspects Working Group emphasized the importance of networking with organizations that influence the spread and control of invasive plants and/or have useful information resources to offer. They noted that in order to achieve high quality early warning capacity, it is important to build a functional, distributed early detection system that receives reports and information from many sources, is supported by taxonomic capability for accurate identification, and then makes verified reports available for follow up assessments.

Rapid Assessment

The Rapid Assessment Working Group focused on defining considerations for carrying out reliable rapid assessments. They noted the need for the development of a nationwide rapid assessment tool, which would be available for states, counties, and others to adapt to their specific, local needs. The group recommended appointment of a Statewide Weed Coordinator in every state. To facilitate data sharing and cross-linking of databases, they recommended standard taxonomic nomenclature be adopted and implemented in these databases. The group also called for training in the assessment methodology to better ensure that the infrastructure is prepared to deal with outbreaks when they arise.

Rapid Response

The Rapid Response Working Group outlined an infrastructure for containing or eradicating outbreaks after they are identified. They recommended that this activity be coordinated within each state by a Statewide Invasive Species Committee, which would share information and work closely with a National Group of State Committees to facilitate interstate coordination as necessary. They called for modeling rapid response teams on the processes used for wildfires by interagency fire response teams and for natural disasters by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In addition, the group called for all decisions and actions to be made at the most appropriate local level. Public outreach considerations, funding issues, and potential barriers were also addressed.

Public Outreach and Information Access

This working group called for the use of partnerships to leverage experience and resources, engage target constituencies, and develop educational resources and channels for their dissemination. In addition, the Working Group noted the importance of providing two-way communication between the public and agencies running invasive species networks (e.g., through the use of volunteer programs, etc.).

Operational Framework

This working group outlined a potential operational framework for an early warning system, that included national, regional, state, and local components. The framework defines some of the key actors and functions, and identifies additional issues and considerations. This group recommended appointment of a National Weed Coordinator to coordinate the National Early Warning System, in close cooperation with FICMNEW and the Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force. They also called for the establishment of a single point of contact (Statewide Weed Coordinator), to work closely with the State Weed Team in developing and coordinating the early detection, rapid assessment, and rapid response system within each state. The group also identified the barriers and opportunities to establishing and maintaining an early warning system. Where possible, they identified solutions to the identified barriers.

VI. Observations and Additional Comments on the Working Group Presentations

Following the Working Group presentations, participants made the following observations and additional comments:

Early warning and rapid response happens at the local level and is handled differently in various states and localities.
Prevention and exclusion (P&E) are just as important as early warning. It is important that this group engage in a discussion of P&E.
The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (EPPC) created a list of invasive species in Florida as a useful tool for consumers. Participants noted that other states may wish to create such lists for their area.
A nationally accepted risk assessment tool that produces science-based, objective, and defensible assessments of species invasiveness and the vulnerability of habitats to invasions, is needed. Economic factors should be considered as well.
National and international standards for early detection, rapid assessment, and rapid response are needed. A special expert workshop could be convened with the goal of producing these standards.
It is important to develop a realistic budget for weed control. However, while needs are clearly substantial, Congressional support and funding will depend on how effectively constituencies speak with a united voice in urging Congress to make the issue a high priority for the nation.
Participants voiced the need to go beyond our usual partners and contacts to engage additional constituencies. It is vitally important to engage all impacted stakeholders in the planning and development of the proposed system.

VII. Next Steps and Action Items

Participants ended the workshop by identifying a variety of next steps and action items to be taken to move forward in the design and implementation of a National Early Warning and Rapid Response System for invasive plant species in the U.S. (see Next Steps and Action Items).

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