Invasive Forest Insects Cost Taxpayers Billions

UCSB Study Unveils Unlikely Side Effect of Global Trade

The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in Santa Barbara has sponsored a group of scientists to research the impact that invasive forest insects have on taxpayers’ wallets — and according to a prepared statement from UCSB, taxpayers do indeed fork out large sums of money due to forest invasion.

“Taxpayers are picking up most of the tab for damages caused by invasive tree-feeding insects that are inadvertently imported along with packing materials, live plants, and other goods,” according to the study. The research findings conclude that “non-native, wood-boring insects such as the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle” generate damages for an estimated “$1.7 billion in local government expenses and approximately $830 million in lost residential property values each year.”

Unfortunately, the invasive species are difficult to eradicate. Lead author of the research paper and scientist with UC Santa Barbara’s NCEAS, Juliann E. Aukema, explained to The Independent that removal of the insects is “difficult because the insects are very small. It’s hard to see them and they tend to have established a population” by the time they are discovered. “They result in billions of dollars in damages each year.”

The research paper also reported that it is not only wood-boring insects that cause these economic impacts. The group of scientists also found that foliage feeders and sap feeders cost the American taxpayers millions of dollars, $410 million and $260 million respectively, in lost residential property value each year. The economic damages are calculated for “five cost categories: federal governmental expenditures, local government expenditures, household expenditures, residential property value losses, and timber value losses to forest landowners.”

Aukema and her fellow scientists suggest in the research paper that “the pests are a byproduct of global trade.”

The lead author said in the prepared statement that “obviously, international trade has tremendous benefits, but it also has costs. The regulations we currently have aren’t keeping the pests out. We need to strengthen regulations and enforcement of them to protect our forests and our economy.”

It is not only America that is facing these extreme expenses caused by insects. According to Aukema, European countries are also struggling with the invasion of insects, as well as China, New Zealand, and some South American countries.

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