June 22, 2005

New Wyden Legislation to Protect National Park Lands, Ecosystems from Invasive Species

Senator's bill would give Secretary of Interior authorityto enter into cooperative agreements to stretch Federal dollars farther

Washington, DC - To help the National Park Service more effectively fight off invasive species and preserve threatened natural resources, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today introduced legislation to authorize the Secretary of Interior to enter into cooperative agreements with watershed councils, non-profits organizations, private landowners and county and state governments to protect, maintain and restore natural plant species and water resources in and around national park lands. The Natural Resource Protection Cooperative Agreement Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Historic Preservation and Recreation. The National Park Service lacks sufficient dollars to perform much-needed restoration projects alone. The Wyden legislation aims to take full advantage of successful public-private partnerships to stretch Federal dollars farther by encouraging partnerships to accomplish high priority restoration, protection and enhancement work. "America's national parks need all the help they can get to protect against threatening and invasive species before they get into park lands, rather than waiting until the problem is bigger and more costly to deal with," said Wyden. "Waiting for harmful species to invade national park land before acting to control their spread means the battle is already lost. This legislation will go a long way toward fostering successful partnerships to protect park land before the natural ecosystems national parks are set up to protect are destroyed." Senator Daniel Akaka said, "This legislation will allow the National Park Service to enter into cooperative agreements with a wide range of groups including our state DLNR and invasive species councils, and non profit organizations, to come together to fend off invasive species as they threaten native habitat and resources within Park boundaries. For years, Hawaii's national parks have been asking for this authority because it makes more sense to protect parks' resources before the invasive species get inside." The legislation introduced today is based on a similar, successful program enacted in 1998 by Wyden for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The successful 1998 measure, commonly referred to as the Wyden Amendment, has paved the way for numerous Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management cooperative agreements with neighboring state and local land owners to perform restoration projects. The Natural Resource Protection Cooperative Agreement Act is expected to be referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, of which both Wyden and Akaka are members.