“Not long ago, Google and Uber were nouns and verbs yet to be discovered, and Amazon was a rainforest in South America,” declared Chairman John Barrasso (WY) in his opening statement to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He went on to explain the idea behind the hearing, which was to examine new solutions to control invasive species and to promote wildlife conservation. He stressed that innovation has transformed nearly every sector of the economy and that conservation should be no exception.
Ranking Member Tom Carper (DE) called it an “all-hands-on-deck situation” and urged members to “buck up our efforts” to find new and creative efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking and the spread of invasive species. He pointed out the large scale of the problem, stressing, “Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise globally, and invasive species cause more than a trillion dollars of harm every year.” Democrat and Republican members of the committee proposed that one solution would be to collaborate on new legislation. Witnesses discussed new technology, including drones, vehicle tracking systems, and smart camera traps to monitor remote destinations as well as genetic testing to detect invasive and illegal fish species. Mr. Carter Roberts (President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund) urged support for the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, a coalition of businesses and nonprofits focused on reducing the practice. Mr. David Ullrich (Chairman, The Great Lakes Fishery Commission) detailed successful efforts to target specific invasive species using chemicals and increased trapping to target sea lampreys. One of the main concerns during the hearing was how to increase efforts amidst potential budget cuts in the coming fiscal year, an area in which Chairman Barrasso again touted technology as a potential saving grace, “We applaud the efforts of innovators to help us better conserve and manage our wildlife at a lower cost.”