Many of us are involved in educational efforts to help get the word about native plants and all their benefits – case in point – this lovely blog itself! However, when is it time to reach into the toolbox and put away the carrot and take out the stick? Balancing education with regulation is no simple matter, as I think many folks would agree – the two need to work hand in hand for either to be effective. Well, when it comes to getting serious about native plants, or more specifically, banning invasive plants, some states are ahead of others in trading in their carrots.
In 2002, Vermont banned the sale of 31 species of plants (both terrestrial and aquatic species) and recently, just last year in 2012 they added another 7 species to the list. Those were the species that they didn’t want holding up the process in 2002, so they got the initial legislation through, and then just recently managed to add them on. The seven species just added in 2012 were Japanese barberry, Common barberry, Burning bush, Norway maple, Amur maple, Yellow flag iris, and European naiad. So that is one aquatic species (the naiad), but the rest are common landscape plants. In fact, at least here in New York, they are very popular landscaping plants. I don’t see many new landscapes going in that don’t have at least burning bush, barberry, or Norway maple in them. Add to that list Japanese spiraea and day lilies, and that is a pretty typical new landscape planting for a new home or business in our area.
Remember that whole carrot and the stick thing? Well, in addition to legislation, Vermont also has an extensive outreach campaign, complete with a voluntary pledge program that nurseries could sign prior to the updated legislation going into affect. And Vermont isn’t alone in their efforts. In 2004, the State of Connecticut banned the sale of 80 species and New Hampshire banned the sale of 35 species. Perhaps the most comprehensive list I found for our region was Massachusetts, which banned the sale of over 140 species in 2006.
Where am I going with all this? Well, here in New York where I live, as I mentioned above, many invasive species that have already been banned in other states are still staples of the landscaping industry. Our nursery, Fiddlehead Creek, is the only nursery in the area that specializes in native plants. In fact, until we started growing plants a few years ago, it was down right hard to find them.
Some days are good, and it seems like we are making real progress in getting the word out about native plants. But some days are not as good, and it seems that no matter how many native alternatives we suggest, and how many times we recite the impacts of invasive species, not only to the environment but also to the economy, these invaders are still just as popular today as ever. Well, for those days, there finally seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel!
Last year, legislation passed both the Assembly in April and the Senate in June and was signed into law by the Governor in July, to create a process and a regulatory list to ban the sale of invasive species in New York. The legislation, like that in many other states, also says that it encourages the use of native plants. In New York, Nassau and Suffolk counties had forged ahead and banned the sale of over 60 invasives in those counties in 2007. So the state is now moving forward with that model and expanding to the rest of the state.
The new regulations are to be in effect by September, 2013. The legislation will probably include phase-out periods for species, as other states have done as well. And there are penalties for breaking the rules too. Just what species will be prohibited from sale? and which ones will still be allowed? There is a ranking process being followed, first assessing the biological ‘invasiveness’ of each species, then considering its socio-economic impacts. But only time will tell just which species end up where – that is where the game of politics comes into play. Will NY have to make some serious compromises like Vermont did in 2002 and leave out highly invasive species such as burning bush and barberry? I sure hope not! The draft rules are due out in a few months for public comment so until then, we will have to wait and see.
I am just familiar with some of the other states in the Northeast. What about other states out there? Do they have similar invasive plant laws? and what species are banned? I would love to hear back from some of you about what is going on in your state.
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