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Ask the Conservationist

August 2012: Can We Stop the Sale of Invasvies?

The estimated damage from invasive species worldwide totals more than $1.4 trillion. Despite this devastating figure, some plant nurseries are still selling invasive plants to gardeners. Can we put a stop to this? Two Nature Conservancy staffers try to tackle this question.

Read the answers below, and then send us your questions on any conservation subject for one of the Conservancy's 550 staff scientists. (Note: We regret that we can only answer one or two questions each month and that we cannot answer the others offline.)

Grace Stiller from Renton, WA writes:

Why are proven invasive plants still sold at stores and nurseries, and what agency controls the effort to change the policy? Is it a state or federal level?

Troy Weldy, Director of Ecological Management in New York, responds:

The timing of your question is great, because New York Governor Cuomo signed legislation on July 24 which will ban the sale, transport and possession of species considered invasive by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Agriculture & Markets. This follows similar action from Minnesota and Massachusetts. Currently, most decisions regarding invasive species are made at the state level, but there are also examples of local municipalities passing laws to prevent the sale or distribution of invasives within their jurisdiction.

Additionally, The Nature Conservancy is looking at opportunities to work with businesses to identify and market nursery plants that are non-invasive, as an educated consumer is our best advocate.

Kristinia Serbesoff-King, Associate Director of Conservation in Florida, responds:

From a federal perspective, the U.S. Department of Agriculture controls the importation on non-native plants into the U.S. and they have authority over what plants become officially listed as federal noxious weeds. If a plant is invasive, but is already widespread in the U.S., the USDA will not list it as noxious, which means it can still be sold, and it would be up to the state to restrict its sale. A candidate for the Federal Noxious Weed List should be either not yet present in the United States or of limited distribution, and should be capable of causing economic and/or environmental harm. If the weed has been introduced, eradication or control efforts should be underway where the weed occurs, and those efforts are up to the state or local authority.

Remember, everyone needs to be part of the fight against invasive species. Here are a few easy ways to get started.

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