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. 

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