Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An Ounce of Prevention...

This week, the State of Arizona made a most disturbing announcement: Zebra mussels were found in the state. The zebra mussel may only be as long as a fingernail, but it's impact is huge. The non-native mussel not only crowds out native mussels and hoards nutrients, it also exists at such high densities that it clogs boat motors and water-intake valves on power stations.

In the Great Lakes, mitigating the effects of zebra mussels has cost more than $3 billion. That's why finding them in Arizona is so disturbing. If they spread around Western rivers, they could have massive impacts on hydropower, agriculture, outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat.

Once established, invasive, non-native species are difficult to control. Prevention is a much more cost-effective strategy. Protecting native habitats from new invaders is one of the Conservancy's conservation strategies around the world. This week, the Conservancy's Great Lakes program announced a new partnership to prevent new invasive species from entering the lakes.

In Idaho, the Conservancy is using satellite technology to map pristine areas of Hells Canyon and the Owyhees to protect them from weeds, engaging anglers at Silver Creek to stop the spread of New Zealand mud snails and participating in statewide programs to help educate outdoor enthusiasts on how cleaning their equipment can prevent moving weeds from one locale to another.

Education and preventative measures are not always easy, but they're far less difficult and far less expensive than controlling established invasive species.

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