Virginia Study of Plant Invaders Set

Del. Bulova’s resolution on control of invasive plant species unanimously passes both House and Senate by voice vote

Ecologists advise that invasive plant species grow at the expense of our ecosystem and our pocketbooks. Without any natural biological deterrents, plants and trees not native to our area are able to grow unrestricted, choking out the native plants and trees upon which our native insects, birds, and animals depend upon for food and habitat.

Local county governments, and individual home owners too, annually expend considerable time, effort, and dollars on management of a number of common invaders that are without natural pests and enemies here. Fairfax County runs a staffed Invasive Management Area (IMA) volunteer program and has an Urban Forestry Department with responsibility for controlling invasive species in the park system and providing information and support to citizens county-wide.

Invasive Management Area (IMA) Program Manager, Patricia Greenberg, new to the position this year, oversees more than 2,000 volunteers and site leaders, and a fiscal year budget of $250,000 granted by the County’s Energy and Environment Fund.

Greenberg indicates volunteers are working on 61 active sites, with the most prevalent invasive being multi-flora rose, English ivy, and porcelain berry. Those plant names and other invasive plants and tree names are likely familiar to readers, including: Bradford pear (Callery pear), Japanese honeysuckle, Mimosa, and Norway Maple, to name a few of the 90 on Virginia’s invasive plants list.

THOSE PLANTS and other non-natives are often still sold in area plant nurseries across the Commonwealth, even though significant sums are spent each year to try to control their growth and eradicate them. In an effort to manage this plant-and-destroy circle, Del. David Bulova (D-37) introduced his invasive plant species joint resolution (HJ527) in the Virginia House of Delegates. As Bulova testified before the Senate Rule Committee, “Arlington County spends about a quarter of a million and Fairfax County about a third of a million dollars on removal efforts each year.” Bulova’s resolution, supported by Sen. Dave Marsden’s (D- 37) budget language, creates a work group to study the sale and use of invasive plants. Varied interest groups will join to discuss and make recommendations on possible statutory and regulatory changes to reduce or eliminate non-native plant and tree sale and use, in favor of the sale and use of native plants. Possible strategies could include labeling plants as invasive at point of sale, taxing invasive species and using revenues toward their removal and restoration of native plant habitats, adding invasive plants to the Commonwealth’s noxious weed list, supporting education and outreach for better public understanding of the damage done to the ecosystem, and increasing the use of native plants on government properties.

BULOVA’S RESOLUTION, which unanimously passed the House, and Senate by voice vote, now awaits signature by the Governor Northam. If enacted by the Governor the work study recommendations will be due in November 2021 for potential action by the 2022 General Assembly.

Meanwhile, invasive plants keep growing at a fast pace. Those interested in learning more about planting natives or volunteering to help with managing invasive’s growth in Fairfax County are directed to the County’s IMA page at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/invasive-management-area.

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