RFF on the Issues

RFF on the Issues: A Risk-Based Program for Screening for Invasive Species

Feb 23, 2017 | Peter Nelson

The threat of invasive species continues to increase as markets become more global. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced a $2 million grant to motivate new research to combat the more than 100 invasive species that are wreaking havoc on the state’s native species and ecosystems. “New York State is a real epicenter for everything invasive, whether it’s aquatic, forest, or terrestrial, because of where we sit in terms of international and interstate commerce,” said Robert Davies, director of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Lands and Forests.  

Acknowledging the challenge in 2011, the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service proposed a risk-based approach for screening imports, rather than inspecting all imports essentially uniformly. RFF’s Rebecca Epanchin-Niell and coauthors note in a Resources magazine article that “Although the basic idea of risk-based inspections is simple—target riskier imports more intensively—designing the actual system is complicated by the involvement of thousands of offshore producers, each likely to adapt its behavior to any change in the border inspection strategy.” In their research, published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, the authors “evaluate how to effectively design such an inspection program and find that relative to a uniform inspection policy, a risk-based inspection approach can cut the expected rate of infested shipments entering the United States by one-fifth—simply by reallocating existing resources.”

Read more analysis by RFF experts on invasive species.

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The views expressed in RFF blog posts are those of the authors and should not be attributed to Resources for the Future.