JUNEAU – A bipartisan effort to stem the tide of invasive species entering Alaska passed the House today with a vote of 33-2. House Bill 54 would create the Alaska Invasive Species Council within the Department of Fish and Game. The council, comprised of volunteer experts and stakeholder groups including tribal and non-governmental organizations, would be charged with advising the Department of Fish and Game on the best means of management, eradication, and prevention of invasive species.
“Invasive species are a constant concern in Alaska,” said House Fisheries Committee Chair Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage). “Today the State House took important action that aims to protect salmon and habitats from the harmful effects of invasive species by passing HB 54.”
According to a 2012 study by Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), invasive species were costing Alaska almost $6 million per year to manage. That number has gone up in the past 10 years. An economist with the International Arctic Research Center at UAF estimates that without further prevention efforts, Elodea damages to the sockeye fisheries alone will cost $172 million per year for the next 50 years.
“Alaskans across the state know the impact invasive species have on our way of life,” said Rep. Kevin McCabe (R-Big Lake). “As the disruption increases year by year, so does the cost of management to the state, which is why I support a grant-funded group of experts to assist the state in identifying a clear path to the elimination, and ultimately the prevention, of invasive species in our state.”
“Whether it be northern pike, elodea, or other not native plants and animals, invasive species can have a very negative impact on salmonid populations and their rearing habitat,” said House Speaker Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak). “I am very grateful to our fisheries chair, Representative Tarr, for introducing this legislation and am excited to see this bi-partisan effort move forward.”
HB 54 heads to the Senate for consideration.