Mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus fly through American air; green crabs and other foreign crustaceans feed on indigenous sea life in San Francisco Bay; the Formosan termite is feasting on historic New Orleans; and the next boat or plane arriving in the United States from anywhere could be hauling who-knows-what in its ballast waters or cargo hold.

Collectively called invasive species, these uninvited animals, insects, flora, and pathogens continue to exacerbate eradication efforts of scientists, government officials, business people, and other stakeholders. According to a January report issued by the National Invasive Species Council, the annual battle costs the United States $137 billion a year.1 Between 1961 and 1995, according to the San Francisco Estuary Institute, one new species invaded the bay's ecosystem every 14 weeks, and at least four of them a year became established.

Historically, the federal government has fought a usually divided battle against...

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