Invasive species are non-native organisms whose introduction can disrupt the natural ecological balance of ecosystems. They can be terrestrial or aquatic plants, vertebrates, invertebrates or pathogens. Once firmly entrenched, invasive species can cause the extinction of native species, interrupt ecosystem functions, spread disease, impact human health, and cause economic hardship. The spread of invasive species can also be facilitated by climate change.
Invasive species impact Tribes on a multitude of levels from environmental to cultural and every step in between. With the complex conjunction of climate concerns and forest management diversity, invasive species are more at the forefront of conservation considerations. To contribute to this complexity, the absence of dedicated management for the minimization and monitoring of specific invasive species concerns and the lack of or reduced tribal capacity for most tribal programs only compound these concerns.
The spread of invasive species does not halt at tribal boundaries and often tribal utilization and understanding of these species may have been accepted by indigenous communities, especially in aspects of food, medicinal or ceremonial purposes. Despite any acceptance, Tribes do recognize that invasive species can be detrimental to biodiversity. Greatest concerns are to cultural and economic resources for Tribes and evaluation of negative impacts are necessary to determine what actions are needed to address invasive species spread throughout Indian Country.
The Native American Fish & Wildlife Society recognizes the importance of identifying, preventing, and controlling invasive species to protect Tribal natural resources. NAFWS supports Tribes through actions, including:
- Hired Invasive Species Coordinator and developing an invasive species program
- Technical assistance for invasive species management
- Provide panel discussions and presentation sessions on invasive species, wildlife diseases and impacts to Tribal Lands at national and regional conferences
- Active members of the North American Invasive Species Management Association and the USFWS Aquatic Nuisance Species Taskforce