Time to Voice Your Views on Invasive Species; Natives

A bill before the Maryland Legislature would classify harmful invasive plants and encourage the use of beneficial native species that support local wildlife and ecosystems.

Invasives plants will be listed according to their level of destructiveness. The plants will be drawn from the National Park Service’s and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. Additional invasive plants may be added by the Secretary of Agriculture if needed.

The proposed legislation also requires the Department of Natural Resources to “create, maintain, and publish” a list of plant species native to Maryland on its website.

The bill further states that organizations receiving state funding and state agencies must prioritize the use of plants native to Maryland for every planting project.

If the bill becomes law, plants native to Maryland will be exempt from sales and use tax.

“Our natural world is composed of countless incredible and interdependent systems that exist in balance. And while it is not always obvious, we influence these systems daily. In the case of the introduction of invasive plant species into an ecosystem, we jeopardize the balance of these systems which has far-reaching consequences,” says Del. Eric G. Luedtke, District 14, Montgomery County.

“Through this legislation, Senator Sarah Elfreth and I are seeking to prevent this by strengthening invasive plant regulations and promoting the use of native species,” adds Luedtke, Majority Leader of the House of Delegates and sponsor of House Bill 15.

“You can drive anywhere in Maryland and see English ivy strangling our native oak trees. You can visit farms and hear about the extra work invasive plants cause and how many precious acres of land are disturbed – this legislation is a first step to address this growing crisis,” says Sen. Elfreth, District 30, Anne Arundel County, who sponsored Senate Bill 7.

“Discouraging the use and sale of invasive plants is critical for the health of our Bay, our agriculture, public health, and our economy. This legislation prioritizes the use of native plants which are critical to the region’s ecosystem and flourish with little to no fertilizer. They don’t require pesticides as they are mostly resistant to insects and disease – all factors that help reduce the amount of harmful runoff into the Bay,” adds Del. Dana Jones, District 30a, Anne Arundel County. She is a co-sponsor of the bill.

North America has lost 3 billion birds in the last 50 years. The spread of invasive plants combined with the loss of native plants that support insects (96% if terrestrial songbird birds feed their young insects) are prime factors for this. The need to address these imbalances is critical.

This bill has drawn a wide circle of support from, among others, the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society of Central Maryland.

Please contact your legislators or members of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee as soon as possible. The House committee rarely sees bills of this nature so reaching out to let these members lets them know the importance of this bill.