weather icon Clear

California forms group to step up effort to halt invasive species

FRESNO, Calif. — State officials said Tuesday they’re stepping up efforts to banish invasive species, including Quagga mussels that clog cooling pipe systems on the Colorado River and Asian citrus psyllids that threaten Southern California orange trees.

“One of the greatest challenges to human health, to our environment and to our food supply comes from invasive species,” said A.G. Kawamura, secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture. “As our borders open up to more international trade, we have to be on top alert.”

At the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Kawamura announced the formation of the Invasive Species Council, which includes secretaries of state agencies that previously had dealt with the environmental problem within their own bureaucracies. Kawamura will lead the effort.

Nonnative bugs and plants cause at least $138 billion in losses nationwide each year to agriculture, power and water delivery systems and forests, according to a 1999 Cornell University study cited by state officials as the most recent available figure.

The council aims to streamline duplicated efforts. For instance, the Department of Food and Agriculture, which inspects border crossings for pests on fruits and vegetables, also could check boats for Quaggas, a task currently performed by the California Department of Fish & Game.

Officials are most worried about the potential economic impact that would occur if the psyllid and Quagga are carried to other parts of the state.

The psyllid can transmit the citrus greening disease, which has killed tens of thousands of acres of trees in Florida and Brazil. San Joaquin Valley growers, the largest players in the state’s $1.1 billion citrus industry, have been bracing for the pest to cross the Tehachapi Mountains from San Diego and Imperial counties.

The Zebra mussel, a relative of the Quagga that plagues the Great Lakes, cost the power industry $3.1 billion to fight in the 1990s, state officials say. Now the Ukranian Quagga — already is established in lakes Mead and Havasu, where they damage hardware in Hoover Dam’s hydroelectric operations — has migrated to the Colorado River Aqueduct.

The council will collaborate with scientists, environmental groups, landowners and industries harmed by invasive species. The goal is a “rapid response plan” to focus attention from all the agencies on the most urgent species poised to cause the greatest economic, public health or environmental hardship.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Americans say focus on asteroids, robots over Mars trip

Americans prefer a space program that focuses on potential asteroid impacts, scientific research and using robots over sending humans to the moon or on to Mars, a poll shows.

Supreme Court says longstanding cross on public land in Maryland OK

A World War I memorial in the shape of a 40-foot-tall cross can continue to stand on public land in Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in an important decision about the use of religious symbols in American life.

Animated videos: Boy Scouts’ new tactic to fight sex abuse

Under financial pressure from sex-abuse litigation, the Boy Scouts of America are seeking to bolster their abuse-prevention efforts with a new awareness program featuring cartoon-style videos that will be provided to more than 1.2 million Cub Scouts across the nation.

Growing movement shuns air travel due to high carbon cost

A small, but growing movement in Europe and North America is shunning air travel because it produces high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump gives mixed signals on Iran’s downing of US drone

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. drone on Thursday amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over the collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Baby California condor spotted in northern Arizona

A baby California condor has been spotted in far northern Arizona. The Peregrine Fund says one of its biologists confirmed the nestling last week at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.