Arizona now has an official plan for fighting plant and animal invaders wreaking havoc on the environment.
Members of the Arizona Invasive Species Council said the plan, approved last month by Gov. Janet Napolitano after public hearings held around the state, coordinates the efforts of different public and private groups dealing with the threat.
"We do recognize this is a serious problem with wildlife and fishery," said Tom McMahon, a council member and coordinator with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "Things like this we've got to address."
The plan calls for Game and Fish and the Arizona Department of Agriculture to work together to research, identify, map and eradicate invaders. Those departments will work with other states to track species' movements across the country.
"This isn't just a city issue; this isn't just an Arizona issue," McMahon said. "It's a national issue."
Invasive species ranging from plants and animals to insects and viruses are established around Arizona.
Quagga mussels, which have caused extensive environmental and property damage in the Great Lakes region, have established themselves along the Colorado River and have made it into central Arizona.
Tiger salamanders, introduced into waterways as bait, are suspected of spreading a fungal disease that has decimated native frog populations. Buffelgrass, imported from Africa as cattle forage, is spreading around southern and central Arizona and threatens native vegetation by spawning intensely hot fires that devastate the landscape.
The plan notes that invasive species are particularly devastating here because Arizona has among the most diverse bird, reptile and mammal populations in the nation.