Invasive Species

What is an invasive species?

Invasive species have two main characteristics: they are non-native (exotic/alien) to the ecosystem that they occupy, and their existence in that ecosystem causes or is likely to cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health. If left unchecked, invasive species can threaten native species, biodiversity, ecosystem services, recreation, water resources, agricultural and forest production, cultural resources, economies and property values, public safety, and infrastructure.

There are many kinds of invasive species-harmful exotic (alien) plants, animals, algae, fungus, or disease-causing microorganisms; and these harmful invaders threaten aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Some examples of the diversity of invasive species include the emerald ash borer, feral swine, zebra and quagga mussels, kudzu vine, cheatgrass, hemlock woolly adelgid, white-nose syndrome fungal pathogen, lionfish, bufflegrass, Asian carp, garlic mustard, leafy spurge, Sirex woodwasp, Burmese python, Japanese knotweed, and many more.

Native Pests and Diseases

In addition to our work against harmful exotic (alien) invasive species, the Forest Service works collaboratively to detect, prevent, and control certain native pests and diseases that cause widespread environmental damage and tree mortality. These include native forest insect pests (such as southern pine beetle or western bark beetle) and native forest pathogens.

What is the Forest Service doing to help?

A rainbow over a forest stream, mountains and forest scene
Scene on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, Idaho. Photo credit: Forest Service.

The Forest Service is a recognized leader in invasive species ecology, management, and research in the United States and internationally. We work with public and private organizations, tribes, states, and local landowners to address a wide range of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. As a major federal landowner, the agency prevents and controls invasive species across the 193 million-acre National Forest System, public lands and waters extending from Alaska to the Caribbean. The Forest Service works with partners at all levels to respond to and manage invasive species, as well as other native pests and diseases, that threaten the lands and waters of the United States.

Panelists at the Innovation Summit
Federal and non-federal partners hosted an Innovation Summit at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Forest Service plays an important role in each of the national federal interagency coordinating groups addressing invasive species, including the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANSTF), the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW), Federal Interagency Feral Swine Task Force, and the Federal Interagency Committee for Invasive Terrestrial Animals and Pathogens (ITAP). The agency works closely with federal programs and agencies within the National Invasive Species Council to help advance implementation of the Presidential Executive Orders regarding invasive species.

Blackfoot Challenge members and Forest Service scientists and managers
Blackfoot Challenge members, Forest Service scientists, and managers discuss protocols for biocontrol, near Ovando, Montana. Photo by Sharlene Sing, USDA Forest Service

The Forest Service provides financial and technical assistance to local, state, tribal, and federal partners help address invasive species that threaten America’s forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems across the landscape. Our extensive network of research facilities and programs, coupled with an array of invasive species management professionals and experts, are helping to develop innovative techniques, approaches, tools, and technologies. An array of science-based approaches to detect, prevent, control, and eradicate aquatic invasive species, have been developed or advanced by the Forest Service.

What can you do to prevent invasive species?

At home:

 
  • Avoid planting invasive ornamental plants on your property. Use native alternatives for ornamental plantings
  • Learn how to control invasive plants around your property and what tools to use to properly remove them.
  • Report invasive species infestations to your local, county, state, or federal government agency.
  • Do not dump aquariums or houseplants into the environment (such lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, or other natural areas).
  • Contact your local National Forest or Grassland, state or county government officials to learn about invasive species in your area.
People at a plant sale
Use native alternatives for ornamental plantings and avoid planting invasive ornamental plants on your property.

When traveling:

 
  • Make sure to clean your clothes, boat, animals, and gear off after recreating to prevent the spread of invasive species to other areas.
  • Do not collect invasive plants, their seeds, or reproductive bodies.
  • Do not carry firewood long distances. Burn it where you buy it!
  • Properly dispose of live bait in the trash, not into the environment.
  • Use only invasive-free (weed-free) forage/hay when feeding livestock on National Forests

Additional invasive species prevention tips for:

A man inspecting and cleaning a boat
Inspecting and cleaning a boat to remove invasive plants and mollusks. Photo by John Rothlisberger, USDA Forest Service.

Detecting and Reporting Invasive Species

Wild Spotter logo

Wild Spotter

Wild SpotterTM - Engaging and empowering the public to help find, map, and prevent invasive species in America's wilderness areas, wild rivers, and other natural areas.

Poster: Spread the Word! Rapid Response Communication Kit. Everything you need to quickly alert the public about an Aquatic Invasive Species infestation in your area. Clean, Drain, Dry Initiative.

Rapid Response Communication Kit

In partnership with USDA Forest Service, Wildlife Forever is committed to helping communities slow the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species and empowering best management practices for wise public use of America’s natural resources. The RAPID RESPONSE KIT gives agencies, organizations and communities across the country the tools to quickly communicate about an infestation. Read more about the new rapid response kit designed to help prevent spread of invasive species...

See the Rapid Response Kit...

Photos

Forest Service employee pointing at invasive species.
Forest Service employee conducting invasive species survey. Photo by Katrina Krause, USDA Forest Service.
Forest Service looking at purple loosestrife.
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) on the Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho. Photo by Bob Nichols, USDA Photography.
Forest Service employees recording invasive species data.
Forest Service employees record survey results. Photo by Bob Nichols, USDA Photography.
Forest Service employees collecting white sweet clover plants on an airfield.
Eradication of white sweetclover (Melilotus albus) in Alaska. Photo by USDA Forest Service.
Eight feral swine in a trap
Feral swine trap. Photo by US Forest Service.
A man spray washing an off read vehicle.
Spray washing an ATV. Photo by US Forest Service.