|Executive Order 13112 on
February 3, 1999
By Tom McDonnell, Director of Natural Resources
American Sheep Industry Association
President Clinton's Executive Order on invasive species was signed
While noxious plant and animal species like Russian knapweed, leafy
spurge, nutria and the gypsy moth are and should be of concern to
agriculture and the American public, this executive order goes far
beyond the control of noxious species.
As defined within the executive order, dogs, cats, wheat, barley, rice,
and domesticated livestock could be considered invasive alien species.
Federal agencies under section 2 of the Executive Order are directed to
1) prevent the introduction of such species; 2) control populations of
such species, and; 3) provide for restoration of native species and
habitat conditions in ecosystems that have been invaded.
This executive order has major ramifications not only on agriculture
within the United States, but also on the daily lives of every American.
The first paragraph of the executive order on invasive species directs
federal agencies "to prevent the introduction of invasive species
and provide for their control and to minimize the economic, ecological,
and human health impacts that invasive species cause." The
definitions under Section 1 are critical to understanding the far
reaching scope of this statement.
To quote the executive order, "alien species means, with respect to
a particular ecosystem, any species including its seeds, eggs, spores,
or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that
is not native to that ecosystem."
Because the executive order fails to define domesticated species, most
agricultural crop and animal species would clearly fall within the
definition of alien.
Domesticated pets, many houseplants, and Kentucky bluegrass used in most
lawns and golf courses would also be defined as alien species under this
With the administration's preoccupation with indigenous people, some
races of man may also be considered alien.
Genetically modified and hybrid species of plants can also be defined as
"alien species" under this order because they contain
"biological material capable of propagating that species, that is
not native to that ecosystem".
The definitions of "invasive species",
"introduction" and "ecosystem" are also key to
understanding the scope of the order.
Invasive species "means an alien species whose introduction does or
is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human
Introduction means "the intentional or unintentional escape,
release, dissemination, or placement of a species into an ecosystem as a
result of human activity."
Ecosystem "means the complex of a community of organisms and its
An ecosystem, therefore, can be as small as a mud puddle with
microorganisms swimming in it, and as large as the entire earth.
Because the definition of ecosystem is so broad, environmental harm can
occur when a sheep or cow drinks from a water trough and disrupts and
damages the ecosystem within that trough.
Planting wheat, barley, fruits and vegetables can disrupt and harm the
microorganisms within the soil ecosystem.
Planting crops also harms biodiversity by replacing a multitude of
native plant species with a monoculture.
Vaccinating or giving humans and animals antibiotics for disease can
cause harm to the community of organisms causing disease within the
human body, also an ecosystem.
Forest succession cannot occur unless competition by the trees causes
harm to the early successional ecosystems of grass and brush.
Bottom line -- in a world where all animal and plant species compete to
some degree and there is survival of the fittest -- no human, plant or
animal species can survive without causing harm to another ecosystem.
Note, however, that this executive order only addresses the ecosystem
"harm" caused by alien species introduced by man, and not the
ecosystem "harm" caused by native species.
Based on these definitions, all alien species are also invasive species,
which the President directs federal agencies to study, monitor and
Also based on the breadth of the executive order's definitions and the
demonstrated propensity of federal regulators to interpret regulatory
language in its broadest sense, this executive order should give rise to
For example, Congress defined "navigable waters of the United
States" to be waters where ships involved in interstate commerce
Federal agencies expanded the definition of navigable waters to mean
waterways where shipping commerce occurred and their tributaries.
With the Migratory Bird Act, administered under the Commerce Clause,
navigable waters of the United States was expanded to mean any waters
utilized by migratory waterfowl.
The Environmental Protection Agency went so far as to argue before the
federal courts that "navigable waters of the United States"
included prairie potholes because a goose may glance at, and consider
using, the water within the potholes.
If federal agencies can interpret "navigable water" so broadly
it is not difficult to imagine how the definition of invasive species
and the directive under Section 2(2) calling for the restoration of
native species and habitat conditions could be interpreted.
The draft executive order on invasive species released in May 1998,
raised questions whether this executive order was being used to
implement Section 8(h) of the Convention of Biological Diversity -- a
treaty that has not been ratified by the Senate.
It is interesting to note that the final draft of the executive order
added the Secretary of State to the Invasive Species Council in Section
It is unclear whether the State Department under Section 2(b)must
approve the Invasive Species Management Plan, approve federal agencies
working with international organizations, or both.
It is also interesting to note that recommendations for international
cooperation in addressing invasive species are to be developed under
Section 2(3) directs agencies not to authorize, fund, or carry out
actions that they believe are likely to cause or promote the
introduction or spread of invasive species in the United States unless
the benefits of such actions clearly outweigh their potential harm
caused by invasive species.
This directive has major ramifications on clean water, and wetlands
permitting, grazing, timber, and mineral leases, and federal funding of
animal and plant research within federal agencies such as APHIS and ARS
or within universities. The ramifications of this section need to be
In closing, a full legal review of this executive order is still needed,
as the full scope of this order is not covered within this memo. This
review should be conducted by Congress, state and local government,
health agencies, universities and industry.
It is absolutely essential that domesticated livestock and crop species
be defined and humans and domesticated species be exempted from the
definition of alien species.
It is also absolutely essential that the control and eradication of
diseases, even if they are native, be exempted from this executive
order. If the administration does not address these changes, Congress
should revoke the order.