Invasive species cause serious environmental and economic issues in the United States, impacting biodiversity and costing an estimated $120 billion a year in losses. Graduate student Amy Ferriter is providing insight to the Idaho Legislature on the problem and helping them address solutions.
Ferriter moved to Idaho from Florida in 2005. She had worked on invasive species in the Everglades for 14 years and became Idaho’s invasive species coordinator in 2006. She now is a doctoral student in public policy and administration at Boise State, studying U.S.-Cuba policy related to invasive species.
Idaho was the first state in the western U.S. to develop a proactive prevention program directed toward a specific aquatic nuisance species. Quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis) are a fouling organism native to the Black and Caspian Seas of Eastern Europe. These aquatic organisms likely were introduced to the U.S. Great Lakes in the 1980s when the United States resumed trade with Russia after the end of the Cold War, most likely in ships’ ballast water.
By the 1990s, these highly invasive mussels had spread throughout all five of the Great Lakes and much of the Mississippi River Basin, but appeared confined to the eastern U.S. In 2007, quagga mussels were unexpectedly discovered for the first time in the western United States at Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Nevada.
Quagga mussels are notorious for attaching to surfaces and causing significant damage to infrastructure such as dams, irrigated agriculture systems, municipal water plants and power facilities. The filter-feeding mussels also are a serious environmental problem, sifting nutrients from the water, outcompeting native aquatic organisms and crashing aquatic food webs.
The Idaho Legislature acted quickly in 2008 to put progressive authorities, rules and a funding source into place to protect the state from quagga mussels. Water users, agricultural interests, power producers, environmentalists and conservationists formed a unique alliance to support these efforts to protect Idaho’s waters.
In order to continue this good work, the Legislature convened an interim committee to evaluate the program and make recommendations for improvement this summer. As Idaho’s former invasive species coordinator, Ferriter was asked to speak to the committee on Sept. 23 about policy considerations related to invasive species in Idaho.
The committee also has asked her to provide a report of suggested changes that could be made to strengthen the program and improve interagency coordination at the local, state and federal levels.