USDA Warns of Invasive Species Damaging the Environment

Millions of Americans enjoy spending time outdoors, doing all kinds of nature-related activities every single year. Roughly 33.1 million Americans over the age of 16 spent, on average, 17 days fishing last year, and in 2014, U.S. consumers spent more than $1.5 billion on camping equipment. Unfortunately, thanks to some invasive pests, campers, hunters, and fishermen are being warned to stay vigilant as they enjoy the outdoors.

According to Total Landscape Care, over the last few weeks of April, fire ants, Asian longhorns beetles, emerald ash borers, and other invasive species have destroyed habitats and wreaked havoc on various parts of the country.

Federal and environmental agencies have continued to stress the importance of preventing these damaging pests from infesting any nearby areas.

“People wonder if their individual actions really matter,” said Osama El-Lissy, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Plant Protection and Quarantine Deputy Administrator told the Sierra Sun Times. “The answer is yes. If you’re not careful, you can unknowingly spread invasive pests by simply taking firewood on a camping trip, buying plants or seeds online or mailing a friend a gift of homegrown fruit.”

One of the more damaging invasive species, fire ants, currently infest 14 states in the southern U.S., but that number could increase if campers, hunters, and picnickers aren’t careful.

“Be on the lookout when you’re walking down the street, walking your dog, or camping,” added Stephen Hauss, a cooperative pest survey coordinator based out of Delaware. “Be observant and take action.”

The Guilfordian reports that the purple-loosestrife, lionfish, kudzu, and roughly 4,300 additional species are considered invasive in the U.S., and individuals should be on the lookout for these damaging pests.

“It’s a species that’s coming in and establishing itself where it doesn’t belong, or where it’s non-native,” added Bryan Brendley, associate professor of biology. “They can cause stress or strain on native plants that belong in the area.”

Campers and other individuals spending time outdoors are encouraged to contact the Department of Agriculture if any signs of invasive pests are discovered.

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