Press Release

Congressman Cuellar Announces Efforts to Control Carrizo Cane and other Invasive Species Along the Rio Grande

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Washington, January 7, 2016 | Rafael Benavides ((956) 725-0639) | comments

Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) announced the inclusion of provisions to speed the control and removal of Carrizo cane and other invasive species along the Rio Grande in the government funding bill. This is a continuation of Congressman Cuellar's years-long leadership on this environmental and security issue.

Carrizo cane is a fast-growing invasive plant species that has overtaken many patches of land along the river. The cane can reach a height of over 25 feet in as little as 12 months and presents considerable obstacles for national security and the protection of our 1,255-mile Rio Grande border by reducing visibility within enforcement areas for the U.S. Border Patrol.

“I have long been concerned about the impact of Carrizo cane and other invasive plant species on the activities of CBP agents along the Rio Grande. In addition to providing those attempting to cross our southern border with a place to hide, Carrizo cane chokes waterways, erodes banks and water canals, damages bridges, and inhibits native biodiversity. The recently-passed omnibus appropriations bill includes language directing CBP to work with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board; other federal, state, and local stakeholders; and the Government of Mexico on efforts to control Carrizo cane and other invasive species along the Rio Grande River.”

“An effective eradication program will give our CBP and Border Patrol agents greater visibility while enhancing officer safety when patrolling Texas’ southern border. I thank Congressman John Carter (R-TX-31), Chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, for his support of this bill provision.”

“In order to help meet Governor Greg Abbott’s border security priorities, the Texas Legislature in mid-2015 gave the responsibility of controlling invasive Carrizo cane along the Rio Grande to the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. Amid a diversity of complex issues, we must develop a long-term, landscape-scale carrizo cane control program that will necessitate funding from a variety of sources,” said Johnny Oswald, Program Administrator for the Rio Grande Carrizo Cane Eradication Program at the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.

“The State of Texas appreciates Congressman Cuellar’s leadership in pushing for federal provisions to speed the removal of carrizo cane along the Rio Grande. We look forward to working with CBP and Border Patrol agents in Texas, along with other local, state, federal, and international stakeholders on this monumental task,” Oswald added.

The omnibus appropriations bill requires that CBP brief Congress within 120 days with an action plan that includes resource requirements and efforts to the approval of new biological control agents. The plan will address progress made, a plan for working with stakeholders to make future progress, strategies under consideration by other federal agencies as well as state and local stakeholders, and efforts to also work with the Mexican government to eradicate or control Carrizo cane on the Mexican side of the river.

The invasive Carrizo cane, as shown in the photo above, consumes water resources, does not provide any food sources or nesting habitats for native wildlife and actually increases riverbank erosion and flooding on the Rio Grande. The cane also decreases visibility and access for law enforcement on the Texas-Mexico border. (Photo courtesy of the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board)

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