[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 218 (Monday, November 13, 2006)]
[Notices]
[Pages 66156-66157]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-18768]


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Notices
                                                Federal Register
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This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
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Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 218 / Monday, November 13, 2006 / 
Notices

[[Page 66156]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

[Docket No. APHIS-2006-0078]


Evaluating the Invasive Potential of Imported Plants; Electronic 
Public Discussion

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of electronic public discussion.

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SUMMARY: We are advising the public that the Animal and Plant Health 
Inspection Service (APHIS) is hosting an electronic public discussion 
on methods that can be used to evaluate the potential of imported 
plants to become invasive species if they are introduced into the 
United States. Any interested person can register for the electronic 
discussion, which will allow participants to upload files and interact 
with other participants and with APHIS staff.

DATES: The electronic public discussion will be held from November 27, 
2006 to January 26, 2007.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Polly Lehtonen, Senior Staff 
Officer, Commodity Import Analysis and Operations, PPQ, APHIS, 4700 
River Road Unit 133, Riverdale, MD 20737-1236; (301) 734-8758.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    Under the Plant Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 7701-7772 et seq.), 
noxious weed is defined as: ``Any plant or plant product that can 
directly or indirectly injure or cause damage to crops (including 
nursery stock or plant products), livestock, poultry, or other 
interests of agriculture, irrigation, navigation, the natural resources 
of the United States, the public health, or the environment.'' The 
Plant Protection Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to 
undertake such actions as may be necessary to prevent the introduction 
and spread of plant pests and noxious weeds within the United States. 
The Secretary has delegated this responsibility to the Administrator of 
the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
    The regulations in 7 CFR part 360, ``Noxious Weed Regulations,'' 
contain restrictions on the movement of noxious weed plants or plant 
products listed in that part into or through the United States and 
interstate. To add a plant to the list of noxious weeds in part 360, or 
to remove a plant from that list, APHIS conducts a pest risk analysis. 
One part of this analysis is an evaluation of the potential of the 
plant to become an invasive species. (The term invasive species is 
defined by Executive Order 13112 as a species that is: (1) Non-native 
(or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and (2) whose 
introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental 
harm or harm to human health. The first part of this definition 
includes all imported plants that are not present in the United States; 
the second part is consistent with the definition of noxious weed in 
the Plant Protection Act, as quoted above. Accordingly, we make a 
determination regarding a plant's potential for invasiveness when 
determining whether to add the plant to the noxious weed list in part 
360.) If the pest risk analysis indicates that a change should be made 
to the regulations, we undertake rulemaking to do so.
    Since it is impossible to determine definitively whether a plant 
that is not present in the United States will become invasive when 
introduced to the United States without actually introducing the plant, 
APHIS uses other types of scientific information to help make judgments 
about whether a plant, if imported, would be likely to be invasive. 
Several years ago, APHIS commissioned an evaluation of the state of 
scientific knowledge about biological invasions and the state of our 
ability to reliably predict the outcome of accidental or intentional 
introductions of nonindigenous species. The National Research Council 
established the Committee on the Scientific Basis for Predicting the 
Invasive Potential of Nonindigenous Plants and Plant Pests in the 
United States to complete this evaluation. The resulting study, 
published in 2002, concluded that the record of a plant's invasiveness 
in other geographical areas is currently the most reliable predictor of 
the plant's ability to establish itself and become invasive when 
introduced into the United States.\1\
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    \1\ The study is available for purchase through the Internet at 
http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10259.html.
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    The study further concluded that there are currently no known broad 
scientific principles or reliable procedures for evaluating the 
invasive potential of plants in geographic ranges where they are not 
present, but that a conceptual basis for understanding invasions 
exists, and this conceptual basis could be developed into principles 
for predicting invasiveness. The study recommended that the framework 
APHIS uses to evaluate imported plants for potential release as forage, 
crops, soil reclamation, and ornamental landscaping should be expanded 
to include evaluation of the hazards these species might pose. The 
study also recommended that controlled experimental field screening for 
potentially invasive species be pursued for species whose features are 
associated with establishment and rapid spread without cultivation and 
whose history of introduction into the United States is unknown.
    To follow up on these recommendations, we are requesting an 
exchange of ideas and information about methods to evaluate plants for 
potential invasiveness. The information will be helpful for both the 
APHIS noxious weed program and the revision of the nursery stock 
quarantine regulations in 7 CFR part 319 (Sec. Sec.  319.37 through 
319.37-14). (The revision of the nursery stock regulations was 
discussed in general terms in an advance notice of proposed rulemaking 
published in the Federal Register on December 10, 2004 [69 FR 71736-
71744, Docket No. 03-069-1].) As part of the revision of the nursery 
stock regulations, we anticipate publishing a proposed rule at some 
point following this electronic discussion that will solicit public 
comment on establishing a category of plants whose importation is not 
authorized pending pest risk analysis based on other scientific 
evidence that indicates invasive potential. Because we would be 
performing pest risk analyses to remove plants from that category and

[[Page 66157]]

either allow their importation or add them to the list of prohibited 
noxious weeds, we would like to ensure that our pest risk analysis 
process for potentially invasive plants is able to evaluate the risk 
posed by these plants as thoroughly and rigorously as possible.
    Members of the APHIS Weed Team will participate in the electronic 
discussion. We will share all data and opinions offered during the 
discussion with other groups that are interested in methods to predict 
invasiveness for both plants and animals, such as the National Invasive 
Species Council Pathways Work Team and the North American Plant 
Protection Organization Invasive Species Panel.

Questions for Discussion

    We would like participants in the electronic discussion to 
specifically address the following six questions, although general 
comments on the issue of evaluating invasiveness will be accepted as 
well.
    1. What criteria, other than whether the plant has a history of 
invasiveness elsewhere, are most useful to determine the invasiveness 
of a plant introduced into the United States for the first time?
    2. When there is little or no existing scientific literature or 
other information describing the invasiveness of a plant species, how 
much should we extrapolate from information on congeners (other species 
within the same genus)?
    3. What specific scientific experiments should be conducted to best 
evaluate a plant's invasive potential? Should these experiments be 
conducted in a foreign area, in the United States, or both?
    4. How should the results of such experiments be interpreted? 
Specifically, what results should be interpreted as providing 
conclusive information for a regulatory decision?
    5. If field trials are necessary to determine the invasive 
potential of a plant, under what conditions should the research be 
conducted to prevent the escape of the plant into the environment?
    6. What models or techniques are being used by the nursery 
industry, weed scientists, seed companies, botanical gardens, and 
others to screen plants that have not yet been widely introduced into 
the United States for invasiveness? What species have been rejected by 
these evaluators as a result of the use of these evaluation methods?

Accessing the Electronic Discussion

    The electronic public discussion will be held from November 27, 
2006 to January 26, 2007. We are beginning the discussion 2 weeks after 
this notice is published in the Federal Register to give participants 
time to consider the questions and assemble any relevant information.
    While anyone can access the discussion and read the comments, 
registration is required in order to participate in the discussion. You 
will be asked to register at the time you post your comment. The 
discussion will be accessible through a link on Plant Protection and 
Quarantine's Web page for the nursery stock revision, http://
www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/Q37/revision.html. Participants will be required 
to enter their name and e-mail address. Affiliation and mailing address 
are optional. Only the participant names will be publicly displayed; 
the other information will allow us to contact you to resolve technical 
difficulties or request additional information or clarification. When 
the discussion begins, there will be a link to access the discussion 
itself on the nursery stock revision Web page.
    The discussion will be convened using IBM Domino software, which 
allows participants to upload and view files as well as make posts in 
the discussion. The IBM Domino software supports Microsoft Internet 
Explorer and other major Web browsers for both Windows and Macintosh 
systems. Technical support will be available during the discussion. 
There is no cost to participate in the discussion.
    Because APHIS staff will review posts as they are submitted, there 
may be some delay between the submission of a post and its availability 
in the public discussion. Multiple APHIS staff members will be 
monitoring the discussion, and we will try to minimize any delays.
    If you wish to submit comments or other information on the topics 
described in this notice, but you do not wish to be part of the 
electronic discussion, you may send your comments via postal mail or 
commercial delivery to the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT at the beginning of this notice.

    Done in Washington, DC, this 1st day of November 2006.
W. Ron DeHaven,
Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
 [FR Doc. E6-18768 Filed 11-9-06; 8:45 am]
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