Combating Invasive Species

We’ve talked about native vs. non-native vs. invasive species before, but here’s a quick recap just in case. Native species are those that are from here, non-native species have been introduced from somewhere else. Invasive species are a type of non-native species that is actively doing harm in some way, which might include negatively affecting human health, the economy, or pushing out native species.

While blue catfish are one of the major invasive species of concern in the Chesapeake Bay, invasive plants are a huge problem on land. Unfortunately, many invasive plants are abundant in our region and throughout the state of Maryland. Many of these plants were brought here to the US as ornamental garden plants that eventually escaped into the wild and began to spread.

Even more unfortunate is that a number of species that are considered invasive, are still being used and sold as ornamental plants. This means that these plants are being bought and sold commercially and being used by landscaping companies, which gives these plants the opportunity to spread even further.

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While educating yourself on what is and is not native (you might be surprised by how many of your favorite plants are invasive) is an important step, there are other ways you can support the fight against invasive plants. Later this year, we hope to hold an invasive plant training and removal event so you can learn first hand what some of these invasive species look like.

But right now, you can take action by supporting Maryland HB 979 and SB 915 as they make their way through the State Legislature.

These two bills are identical and HB 979 already had a hearing by the House Committee on Environmental and Transportation on February 28th, while SB 915 will have a hearing by the Senate Committee on Energy Education and Environment on March 4th.

The reason these bills are important is that they strengthen regulation regarding the sale and use of invasive plants in Maryland, especially aquatic species.  From the bills directly; “The (DNR) Secretary shall classify as a PROHIBITED invasive plant each plant identified as invasive in the National Park Service’s and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas.”  Currently, many invasives are not prohibited at all; only 6 plants are on the list of banned species and none of them are aquatic. The current law is weak with lots of loopholes, and depends on wholesale and retail plant distributors to voluntarily police what they sell and advise customers of the risks of planting invasives. Current staffing constraints at DNR means that no risk assessments are being made of current Tier II species to move them up to the Tier I banned list. These bills help to address that issue by allowing for the use of qualified independent assessors to assist with this process.

So, write your Delegate or Senator in advance of SB 915 reaching the floor to ask them to lobby their colleagues on the committees to advance the bills out of committee. You can also encourage others to write and support these bills as well. If the bills make it to the full chamber, continue supporting them. If they get passed, we should see more plants receiving the full invasive species treatment. This means that invasive species currently being sold by stores (with no enforcement of the requirement for businesses to inform consumers that the plants are invasive) would no longer be legal to sell at all. This would be a big step forward in the fight against invasive species.

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