Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Oct. 4) - When the subject of brown tree snakes comes up, the news is usually bad: a national newspaper proclaiming that the reptiles have overrun the island, a child or adult bitten in his or her sleep, or an island wide power outage caused by a serpent on a power line.

But finally, there is some good news related to the invasive species, which has killed off a majority of Guam’s native birds. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would spend $104 million over the next five years to eradicate the snake. The bill has gone to the Senate for approval.

Guam’s Department of Agriculture helped work on the bill during its development stages, and the agency’s director, Paul Bassler, said it was "great for Guam."

To ensure we get the maximum benefit from the federal money, we’re going to have to stay on the ball.

The program would be coordinated by a committee of federal and state agencies, with the federal departments of Interior and Agriculture taking the lead. We have to ensure that we are ready on our end to do our part, and it would be best if the planning phases started now.

Governor Felix Camacho needs to designate someone to head the Guam effort, so there’s no squabbling or power plays by the individual local government agencies and directors involved. This individual also would need to coordinate with the military on Guam, as many of the island’s snake-infested jungle areas are on military land. This person would be our liaison to the main committee and with the military.

We also need to find out if the program is going to be financed entirely by the federal government, or whether local matching funds of some kind might be required. If there is a need for matching funds, we must identify exactly what will be cut within the GovGuam budget to make the money available.

The federal brown tree snake eradication program is a great opportunity. We must not waste it.

October 5, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com


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