Thanks to sluggish Government of Guam procurement, the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle is hard at work devastating the island's coconut trees. It could have been a different story, according to a local lawmaker who has introduced legislation to speed up emergency procurement in such cases.
According to a press release from Sen. Sabina Perez, the invasive Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle was first discovered on Guam on Sept. 11, 2007. At that time, the beetle was confined to Lower Tumon, so attempts were made to quarantine and completely eradicate it before it spread further.
The Guam Department of Agriculture reacted swiftly, requesting to purchase traps and equipment to eradicate the invasive species. However, due to the slowness of the GovGuam procurement process, six months passed before the department’s purchasing requests were complete.
During the six-month delay, CRB spread far beyond its initial location, making it impossible to isolate the invasive species. By 2010, CRB had spread to all other parts of the island. Today, the CRB is responsible for the death of countless coconut trees around the island, severely damaging Guam’s ecosystem.
And that's not the only instance.
The Little Fire Ant was first found on Guam in November of 2011 in a landfill in Yigo. In an echo of the CRB response, the Guam Department of Agriculture immediately requested access to funds to purchase pesticides and application equipment to isolate and possibly eradicate LFA. However, it took until June of 2013 before the governor issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency and allowing for the purchase to move forward. During that time, invading ant spread to over a dozen different locations around the island. The ant kills all animals in its proximity, leaving ecological dead zones in its wake.
Now, Perez has introduced Bills 89-35 and 90-35, to improve GovGuam’s procurement ability when facing environmental threats. The measures aim to prevent CRB or LFA incidents from happening again. “Procurement problems are destroying our environment,” said Perez. “These measures will provide GovGuam personnel with the tools they need to protect our island from environmental threats.”
Bill 89-35, co-sponsored by Sens. Kelly Marsh-Taitano, Amanda Shelton and Clynt Ridgell, proposes creating an Invasive Species Rapid Response Fund. The fund will be managed by the Research Corporation of the University of Guam, which has experience administering large grants and funds in an expeditious manner. All expenditures from the fund will be under the direction of the Director of the Department of Agriculture, who is a member of the Guam Invasive Species Council, and the new fund will receive $75,000 from the Guam Invasive Species Fund, which is intended for invasive species management and eradication efforts and is supposed to generate $2M annually from surcharges on incoming cargo.
“The intent is to use both funds in tandem. Following advice from the Invasive Species Council, the Guam Invasive Species Fund will continue to fund staffing and long-term projects, while the Invasive Species Rapid Response Fund will address immediate short-term threats by utilizing RCUOG’s strengths in administering complex funds in a timely manner. Both funds will still be under the purview and oversight of the Invasive Species Council,” said Perez.
“It is important we respond to the threat of invasive species with the same speed with which we respond to all emergencies. Invasive species can ruin industries, livelihoods, and our ecosystem. Rapid response is the key to mitigating invasive species and environmental issues before they become environmental calamities.”
Bill 90-35, co-sponsored by Marsh and Shelton, allows the governor to authorize emergency procurement when facing threats to the environment.
“These bills will go a long way towards improving GovGuam’s ability to respond quickly and protect our natural resources,” Perez said. “We must put these measures in place now to save our environment and preserve it for our people to enjoy now and for generations to come.”