LOCAL GOVERNMENT

AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES TOOLKIT

The purpose of this toolkit is to assist local governments with navigating the regulatory framework associated with high-risk priority aquatic invasive species (AIS). Financial support for the development of this toolkit was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, U.S. Department of Interior, under award #F20AP00238.

 
Background

Prevention is the first line of defense against invasive species, and is widely recognized as the most cost-effective approach to lessen the introduction and establishment of invasive species. The primary challenge associated with invasive species ecology is management of introduction pathways, or vectors. A comprehensive biosecurity approach that emphasizes minimizing invasive species introductions through risk management strategies focused on interdiction of vectors is the most successful approach to preventing new introductions of invasive species. 

Local Governments and Invasive Species Prevention Efforts

Although a substantial amount of attention has been placed on federal and state invasive species policy development and coordination, the potential exists for municipalities to play a significant role in invasive species prevention efforts by implementing rules and regulations that address key gaps not addressed by state and federal regulations. The extent of the authority of cities and counties varies by state, but these entities generally have the ability to enact and enforce laws to protect the welfare, safety, and health of their citizens. 

Different levels of government that work together to collaboratively address invasive species can more efficiently prevent, mitigate, and control invasive species risks. However, local government efforts to address invasive species risks are generally not mobilized in a coordinated or effective manner. Local government officials are often unaware of the extent of their authority to address invasive species risks and therefore do not enact ordinances to regulate key pathways. In addition, state funding priorities may not align with local needs, or available funding is insufficient to cover program costs. 

 

Federal and state invasive species prevention and management programs would benefit from increased engagement and empowerment of local governments to develop invasive species programs. Local governments can help extend the reach of federal and state outreach programs, develop and enforce local laws and policies to support federal and state policy goals, and assist with federal and state law enforcement efforts. 

 

The US Fish and Wildlife Service supported this research on the role of local municipalities and entities in AIS prevention efforts as well as the development of this website. This work fills key a key gap that exists in federal and state management plans, which neither mention nor consider the role of local governments in achieving AIS management goals. This work will directly support the goals of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aquatic Invasive Species Program, which includes preventing the introduction and spread of AIS, detecting and monitoring AIS, rapid assessment and responses to new introductions, control of established invaders to reduce impacts, and increasing public awareness to prevent introduction and spread. All of these goals can be better achieved with close coordination and collaboration with local jurisdictions.

Navigating the Complexity of Addressing AIS at the Local Level

Local governments have a variety of non-regulatory tools to address aquatic invasive species, including public outreach, prevention efforts, incentives for landowners and land managers, detecting new invaders, conducting surveys and inventories to assess the status of populations, prioritizing sites for potential control actions, treating high priority infestations, and monitoring through time to evaluate the efficacy of control efforts (Invasive Species Council of British Columbia 2014). Numerous entities can be involved in these non-regulatory efforts, including entities with regulatory authorities as well as lake associations, nonprofit organizations, privately-owned marinas, community groups, and others. In any particular instance, a suite of regulatory and non-regulatory entities may participate in AIS-related efforts. 

If the determination is made that a regulation is needed, it is important to identify and engage all entities with jurisdictions over the water body or pathway in question. Consider, for example, a water body spanning two municipal jurisdictions located within one county. Any of the three jurisdictions (two cities and a county) could potentially adopt a regulation or take action to address the threat. However, depending on the nature of the regulation, the scope of municipal authority, and the governmental relationships, it might be more efficient for the county to enact the desired regulation. On the other hand, the cities may possess certain authorities that the county lacks. Local action may also be complicated or restrained if federal or state entities also have regulatory or management authority over the water body. Understanding jurisdictional and management authorities for specific water bodies is critical to streamlining regulation development efforts.

Regulatory Framework
 
Do We Need A Local Regulation? 
Invasive Species Policy Decision Tree

This tool assumes a local entity has determined that an invasive species poses significant environmental, economic, or social damage risk.

Can the invasive species risk (species and/or pathway) be adequately addressed without regulation?

YES

NO

There is no need to create a local regulation.

Do any federal, or state, laws exist that address the species, or pathway?

YES

NO

There is no need to create an additional regulation.

NO

Would the creation of a regulation at the local level support state/federal laws and strengthen the ability of a local government to address the invasive species, or pathway?

YES

Convene local jurisdictions and state agencies to a) define regulation gaps, or b) the potential for local regulations that support state regulations and more fully address the invasive species, or pathway. Develop local regulations that address gaps and/or create redundancies with state regulations.

Are there existing local regulations (e.g., codes, statutes) to address the invasive species, or pathway?

NO

YES

YES

There is no need to create a local regulation.

 
 
 
 
Local Regulations by AIS Pathway
Aviation


Planes/Helicopters

Seaplanes

Water


General Aquatic Invasive Species

Hull/Surface Fouling

Stowaways

Anglers

Fish Escapes/Releases

Hydropower Water Intakes

Land

Cars, Buses. Trucks, ATVs, and Recreational Boat Trailers

Non-Food

Bait 

Pet/Aquarium

​​

Aquaculture

Interconnected Waterways (Canals)

  • Marin County, Florida prohibits the construction of navigation canals to protect the estuary.

Interbasin Transfers

Frequently Asked Questions
 

1. Why do I need to think about local AIS regulations? Aren't there enough federal and state laws that address invasive species?

In some instances, federal and state laws are adequate to address specific issues, such as the interstate movement of AIS. However, in many cases, the creation of local regulations address key gaps in, or strengthen, federal and state legislation, giving local entities, such as counties and cities, authorities to protect aquatic resources. Local regulations may also be desirable to provide additional protections for natural resources of value to the local community.

2. Where do I begin? How should I think about navigating the complexities of developing a local regulation, especially when there are so many potential entities that could be involved?

The best place to start is to walk through the decision tree at on the Regulatory Framework page of this website, and determine if there is a likely need for a local regulation. If you determine there is, convene relevant entities in your area to discuss the issue, identify existing local authorities that might or could apply to the problem, and/or consider the need for a new regulation to address the specific issue. Your initial convening will likely include relevant federal, state, and local partners. You can save a lot of time and effort by working with existing authorities to troubleshoot the problem and brainstorm possible solutions.

 

3. Isn't it a waste of time to focus effort and energy on aquatic invasive species, which will likely spread and become established through time?

No, it isn't a waste of time. In fact, through worldwide case studies, it has been demonstrated that every dollar invested in invasive species prevention efforts yields at least $13 dollars of economic benefit. And if you can address aquatic invasive species soon after introduction, in most cases, eradication is possible. If eradication is not possible, implementing a control and monitoring program to minimize the size of the AIS population and prevent further spread can often result in small, localized populations of AIS versus widespread establishment. 

4. What other advantages are there to developing local AIS regulations?

Lake Whatcom in Washington State is a great example of the benefits of developing a local AIS program and local regulations. Lake Whatcom sought to develop and institutionalize a "Whatcom Aquatic Invasive Species Program," which is a joint project of Whatcom County, the City of Bellingham, and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District. The program is intended to protect Whatcom County's natural resources, infrastructure, recreation, wildlife, and economy from the impacts of AIS by preventing the introduction of new AIS to Whatcom County waters and stopping the spread of established AIS into new waters. To date, the program has conducted more than 80,000 watercraft inspections at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish and has intercepted 19 boats transporting or suspected of transporting quagga mussels, 1,230 boats transporting vegetation, and another 2,433 boats that were either wet or had standing water on board Boat inspections are required by law (BMC 12.12.280 and WCC 2.27A).

5. Is a local AIS-specific regulation necessary?

 

It depends. There are both pros and cons of broad versus specific authorities. Some communities might wish to enact broad environmental protections for waterbodies that include AIS threats, whereas others may feel more comfortable enacting more limited provisions specific to the pathway and the AIS threat. Broad approaches to environmental policymaking can assist with the development of comprehensive programs to address a wide range of threats to a particular resource, but may raise questions regarding governmental authority or capacity to implement. Narrow approaches can allow for more targeted interventions to known risks, but may not provide enough flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. Whether a broad or narrow approach is appropriate will vary depending on the circumstances and culture of the local government considering action.

Federal, State, and Local Laws
 

There is no comprehensive legal regime in the United States to address invasive species risks, including AIS. Numerous international, federal, state, Tribal, and local laws, regulations, and policies govern aspects of invasive species prevention and control efforts. The federal government has traditionally focused on preventing invasive species from entering the country and providing funding to states to support prevention, control, and management programs. 

 

Almost all states prohibit in some fashion the import, transport, sale, and possession of invasive species without a permit or other form of authorization from the responsible state agency. Implementation of these programs is usually centralized in one or two state agencies. For example, in Oregon, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is responsible for implementing rules for non-native wildlife, including aquatic invasive species. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is the lead for non-native plants.

 

The role of municipalities in invasive species management in often overlooked, despite the fact that cities are hotspots of biological invasions (Gaertner et al. 2017). Invasive species invasions impact local drinking water supplies, agricultural land, highway rights-of-way, and recreational areas. Municipalities are often responsible for, and sometimes required to undertake, invasive species control and management projects on city and county property and rights-of-ways. 

 

Although the extent of their authority varies by state, cities and counties generally have the ability to enact and enforce local laws to protect the welfare, safety, and health of their citizens. Municipalities, therefore, often have the authority to enact ordinances that address invasive species risks provided they do not conflict with state law. Most cities, for instance, could enact an ordinance prohibiting the planting of non-native species in city parks. 

 

Different levels of government that work together to collaboratively address invasive species, versus making policies separately, can more efficiently prevent, mitigate, and control invasive species risks. However, local government efforts to address invasive species risks are generally not mobilized in a coordinated or effective manner. Local government officials are often unaware of the extent of their authority to address invasive species risks and therefore do not enact ordinances to regulate key pathways. In addition, state funding priorities may not align with local needs, or available funding is insufficient to cover program costs. 

 

Federal and state invasive species prevention and management programs would benefit from increased engagement and empowerment of local governments to develop invasive species programs. Local governments can help extend the reach of federal and state outreach programs, develop and enforce local laws and policies to support federal and state policy goals, and assist with federal and state law enforcement efforts. 

aisvenndiagram_48840342 (1).png
 
Local Government AIS Plans
Large Metropolitan Areas

City of Portland, OR - Invasives 2.0

City of Chanhassen, MN - AIS Plan

Counties

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - AIS Plan Framework Template for a County Government

Beltrami County, MN - Prevention and Management Plan for AIS 2019-2021

Hubbard County, MN - Rapid Response Plan for AIS

St. Louis County, MN - AIS Prevention Plan

Red Lake County, MN - AIS Plan

Blue Earth County, MN - Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Plan and Guidelines (2020)

Waukesha County, WI - Invasive Species Strategic Plan

Marathon County, WI - Aquatic Invasive Species Plan

Green Lake County, WI - AIS Management Plan

Marquette County, WI - AIS Management Plan

Portage County, WI - AIS Management Plan

Sheboygan County, WI - AIS Management Plan

Taylor County, WI - AIS Management Plan

Waushara County, WI - AIS Management Plan

Wood County, WI - AIS Management Plan

Washington County, WI - AIS Strategic Plan 2019-2024

Regional Plans
Waterbody-Specific AIS Plans

Lake Whatcom, WA - AIS Program

Lake Tahoe, CA/NV - AIS Program

Vermillion Lake Association -  AIS Prevention

Seattle City Light - Boundary Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2144) Aquatic Invasive Species Control and Prevention Plan

State Government AIS Plans
National AIS Plans

National Aquatic Nuisance Species Plan, 2020-2025

Tribal AIS Plans

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, MI - AIS Adaptive Management Plan

Blackfeet Nation - Blackfeet Nation 2016-2020 AIS Strategy

 
 
 
 
High-Risk AIS

The primary challenge associated with invasive species ecology is management of introduction vectors. The figure below illustrates the framework used to describe invasive species pathways and threats, including the primary pathways of introduction as well as the techniques commonly used to manage the threats, and the priorities for protection from threats. The framework includes 10 primary pathways of introduction: Air transportation/cargo, water transportation, land transportation, items used in shipping, travel tourism/relocation, plant pathways-plant trade, food pathways, non-food animal pathways, non-food animal, other aquatic pathways, natural spread, and ecosystem disturbances.

Legend

AI = Aquatic invertebrates (and larval stages)

ADP = Animal disease pathogens and parasites

AP = Aquatic plants

HFO = Hull-fouling organisms

IN = Insects

INV = Terrestrial, non-insect invertebrates

MBV = Microbes, bacteria, and viruses

PDP = Plant disease pathogens

PS = Terrestrial plants and seeds

V = Vertebrates

screencapture-editor-wix-html-editor-web-renderer-edit-04816a7b-c158-4a8b-8ecd-08f50c07a33
Evaluating Risk
RISK FRAMEWORK

History of invasion and anticipated harm as well as  climate models (to match basic climate requirements of a species in its native and known invasive ranges with similar climates in the United States to assess risk of establishment) have been used to assess ecological risk and produce screening summaries for high, low, and uncertain risk fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, plants, vertebrates, and invertebrates (USFWS). Although the screening summaries are intended primarily for considering species used in trade, they are helpful when evaluating potential effects of species upon introduction or establishment. For example, high-risk mollusks include New Zealand mudsnails as well as quagga and zebra mussels, all of which have been demonstrated to have significant ecological, economic, and social effects upon establishment in freshwater ecosystems in the United States.

Many states have conducted risk analyses to determine the top 25 or 50 worst invasive species based on ecological, economic, and social effects. State invasive species coordinators can provide updated listed and information to local municipalities. The goal of a risk assessment process is to produce a risk assessment on a specific organisms, or to evaluate organisms associated with specific pathways. Documenting uncertainty is key to describing potential risk. The graphic (adapted from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, www.cec.org) illustrates a commonly used risk assessment framework to evaluate organisms and pathways.

riskassessments_48722809.png
PATHWAY ASSESSMENTS
  • Determine the origin of the organisms associated with the pathway.

  • Determine the number of organisms traveling within the pathway.

  • Determine intended use, or disposition, of pathway.

  • Determine mechanism and history of pathway.

  • Review history of past experiences and previous risk assessments (including foreign countries) on pathway or related pathways.

  • Review past and present mitigating actions related to the pathway.

ORGANISM ASSESSMENTS

Creating a list of non-indigenous species of concern:

  • Determine what organisms are associated with the pathway. 
     

  • Determine which of these organisms qualify for further evaluation using the table below.
     

  • Produce a list of the organisms of concern including:

    • non-indigenous species not present in country

    • non-indigenous species present in the country and capable of further expansion

    • non-indigenous species present in the country that has reached the probable limits of its range, but is genetically different enough to warrant concern, or is capable of harboring another non-indigenous pest and/or introduce the risk of hybridization

    • indigenous species genetically different enough to warrant concern and/or able to harbor another non-indigenous pest, and/or capable of fruther expansion and/or introduce risk of hybridization.


Taxonomic confusion or uncertainty should also be noted on the list.
 

  • Conduct organism risk assessments from the list of organisms developed in the previous step.

THE 7 ELEMENTS OF THE RISK ASSESSMENT FRAMEWORK
ASSESS PROBABILITY OF ORGANISM ESTABLISHMENT

1. Estimate probability of organism being on, with, or in the pathway.

2. Estimate probability of organism surviving in transit.

3. Estimate probability of organism colonizing and establishing a reproductively viable population (access to adequate food, abiotic and biotic environmental resistance factors, the number of individuals likely to be introduced via the pathway, and the ability to reproduce or hybridize). Estimate whether environmental factors are suitable for establishment.

4. Estimate probability of organism spreading beyond the colonized area (ability for natural dispersal, ability to use human activity for dispersal, ability to develop races or strains, estimated range of probable spread based on availability of suitable habitat conditions).

ASSESS CONSEQUENCE OF ORGANISM ESTABLISHMENT

5. Estimate economic impact if established.

6. Estimate environmental impacts if established.

7. Estimate impacts to social and cultural practices.

The risk assessment can then be characterized using three levels:

  1. A risk estimate on each of the 7 elements listed above.

  2. A combination of the 7 risk element estimates into an Organism Risk Potential - which represents overall risk of organism.

  3. Linking the Organism Risk Potential into a Pathway Risk Potential, which represents the combined risk associated with the pathway.

download.png

EXAMPLE: Trailered watercraft are key pathways of introduction for dreissenids (quagga and zebra mussels). The bivalves were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s via ship ballast water, and have since spread throughout most of North America, with the exception of the far southeastern United States and Pacific Northwest. Understanding the role of trailered watercraft in the spread of dreissenids has informed prevention efforts and minimized widespread introduction and establishment.