TO COMBAT INVASIVE BROWN TREE SNAKE
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Doug Domenech, U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs, this week announced the release of $2,839,632 million in fiscal year 2018 grant funding to suppress and control the brown tree snake, Boiga irregularis, on Guam. The program also provides for prevention, detection, and rapid response efforts in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Hawaii as well as related research and development.
“The support that the U.S. Congress provides for brown tree snake interdiction is critical to suppression efforts on Guam and to prevent the spread of the brown tree snake to the CNMI, Hawaii and the greater Micronesia region,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech. “The brown tree snake, which has had significant ecological and economic impacts on the island of Guam, must not be allowed to do any more damage than it has already done.”
Funding for the Brown Tree Snake Interdiction Program in FY 2018 includes:
• CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources – $507,383 for the CNMI Brown Tree Snake Interdiction Program which funds personnel costs for eleven employees: six on Saipan, two on Rota, one on Tinian, and two part-time positions to handle cargo inspection. The program currently conducts inspections, both canine and visual; has traps deployed around all ports of entry; and provides training for rapid-response deployment in case of snake sighting. The program has required that no less than 90 percent of incoming cargo be inspected. In 2017, over 2,300 commercial aircraft and 90 units of marine cargo were inspected.
• Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) – $333,786 supports the Hawaii Brown Tree Snake Interdiction Program, which maintains a multi-faceted approach to prevent the introduction of these snakes into Hawaii. Funds provide for the Hawaii Detector Dog program to detect the species on arriving aircraft, sea vessels, cargo and other regulated articles from Guam and other high-risk areas where it is established. While the state of Hawaii funds the base salaries of employees in the program, OIA funds will support the overtime costs of personnel necessary for more thorough inspections. In 2017, the HDOA inspected 98.6 percent of all high-risk arrivals.
• Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources – $175,000 will support the public outreach program Kontra I Kulepbla – Challenge the Snake! The goal is to encourage positive discussions in the community about efforts to suppress the brown tree snake and to restore and protect Guam’s native wildlife. With the increasing effectiveness of the Aerial Bait Drop System on military lands in killing snakes, the hope is to replicate that same success on public lands; however, support from local Guam residents will be a prerequisite.
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – $341,352 funds an invasive species biologist in Saipan and supports another in Hawaii, both of whom work closely with federal and local partners to provide coordination, management, and technical assistance on various aspects of interdiction, control, and management of the brown tree snake program across the Pacific islands eco-region, most notably Hawaii, Guam, and CNMI.
• USDA National Wildlife Research Center – $434,725 will be used to construct an improved bait cartridge manufacturing system, and increase production of bait capsules for the Aerial Bait Drop System. Efforts to remove brown tree snakes from Guam rely on two strategies: 1) live-trapping and 2) aerial delivery of toxic bait (dead acetomephine-laced neo-natal mice). Aerial treatment of the snakes is the only practical option for landscape-scale suppression in Guam’s forested habitats. Improvements will ensure the system can withstand an 8-hour duty cycle and produce nearly 7,200 bait capsules per day. This remains a top priority of the Brown Tree Snake Research Committee.
• U.S. Geological Survey – $1,047,386 will support research projects that fall under two priorities: 1) moving towards landscape-scale suppression of brown tree snakes via aerial delivery of toxicants and 2) improving early detection and rapid response activities. The USGS brings a combination of herpetological, ecological, and analytical expertise to the program, and is uniquely placed to be able to develop new control tools, test and validate control tools developed by partner agencies, and assess the feasibility of proposed snake control efforts at various spatial scales.
The Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, and the Office of Insular Affairs carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Additionally, OIA administers and oversees Federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. OIA supports the Secretary’s mission of Fulfilling Trust and Insular Responsibilities through balancing efforts and limited resources towards stronger economic and health capacities, and fiscal accountability in the U.S. insular areas. (PR)