The invasive plant bill (HB 831) we have worked on for the last two years has now passed both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly. The bill was sponsored by 19 Delegates and was passed unanimously in the State Senate yesterday, 46-0! AWS staff is thrilled to see this bill passed since we brought back the conversation to the table at the Maryland Invasive Species Council (MISC) two years ago. At that time we came up with a proposed bill we crafted with the valuable help of one of our best interns ever: Leena Chapagain. Thanks you so much, Leena! Almost at the same time another bill was being proposed by a lawyer from Baltimore and his visionary school-age son! Consensually AWS decided to sit down with all the stakeholders and craft a new bill, that's the HB 831. The other stakeholders were the representatives from the following organizations: Maryland Department of Agriculture, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Anacostia Watershed Society, The Nature Conservancy, Sylvan Green Earth Consulting, Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association –among other representatives of the horticultural industry--, and Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP.
Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), an invasive vine, is still being sold at many nurseries. Even though it doesn't spread as fast as other invasive plants, once established it can strangle and kill many shrubs and trees thus affecting the structure and composition of the forests.
The bill will deal with the the nursery trade of invasive plant species in the state of Maryland. It will employ a comprehensive science-based risk assessment protocol that will generate a tiered list of the state’s invasive plants. It will ban the most highly invasive species and includes a provision that will require retailers to post signs, warning consumers of the environmental hazards of these plants.
We think this is a plausible legislative approach to the problem. Traditional solutions to tackle the horticultural trade as a pathway for invasive plant species have been attempted in other states. For the most part these solutions have entailed the introduction of regulatory measures such as invasive plant bans or self-regulation approaches. These mechanisms have proven to be of limited success since regulations, for example, are poorly enforced and on the other hand because industries often overlook the statutes of voluntary regulations given the lack of penalties or the unlikelihood to damage their reputation.
This bill is a much needed measure to address and contribute to curbing the invasive plant species problem from its main root cause without affecting the horticultural industry or the state’s budget. We are sure it will be a model for other states in the country.
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