Governor signs invasive plant bill with unanimous support

Legislation eyes more bird-friendly, sustainable natural ecosystems
March 23, 2021

Gov. John Carney signed Senate Bill 22 banning the commercial traffic of invasive plant species in Delaware during Delaware Naturally, an environmental summit sponsored by the Delaware Native Species Commission March 17.

Introduced by sponsor Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, and passed with unanimous and bipartisan support, the bill will prohibit the use of plants not native to the ecosystem that cause environmental and economic harm to birds and people of Delaware.

“Whether Delaware is their home or it’s a stop to refuel on their migration journey along the Atlantic Flyway, birds rely on a thriving natural landscape of native plant species for food and nutrients, especially insect-feeding birds like the Louisiana waterthrush and brown-headed nuthatch,” said Steve Cottrell, Delaware Audubon Society president. “This legislation provides a policy tool to reduce invasive species that displace native vegetation, and we hope will encourage businesses and people to prioritize native plants and the removal of invasives when landscaping and gardening – to provide healthy habitats for birds across our state.”

“Elected officials in Delaware have an obligation, included in our oath of office, to protect our unique natural environment for future generations of Delawareans,” said Carney. “This legislation will do just that by reducing the sale and distribution of invasive species. Thank you to Sen. Hansen and members of the General Assembly for making the protection of our natural resources a priority.”

According to the U.S. Forest Service, 42 percent of U.S. endangered and threatened plant species are in decline due to invasive species. These plant species push out native species and contribute to the decline of overall plant diversity, degradation of wildlife habitat and water quality, and increased soil erosion.

“The rapid loss of Delaware's native plants, insects, fish, reptiles, and birds is a crisis that demands a concerted, cooperative response. No one else can protect our environment for us, and we all stand to lose if we allow this to continue,” said Hansen. “Building on the important research done by Dr. Doug Tallamy and others, we have now taken action to address this crisis by targeting one of the primary drivers of native-species loss and ecosystem degradation in our region: invasive plants. By passing this legislation, we are finally ending the import, export, sale, transport, distribution or propagation of any plant identified as invasive by the secretary of the Delaware Department of Agriculture in coordination with the Native Species Commission. This is a big step in the right direction and one which will help stem the tide while we work to reverse the damage and educate the public on how they can help to protect Delaware's precious ecosystems."

Not only are native plants good for birds and the insects birds feed on, they are good for people, too. More than 90 percent of land in Delaware is privately owned. Using native plants on privately owned properties and for landscaping needs greatly expands the natural environment. They provide significantly more food sources and habitat for birds and other wildlife, as well as saving water, helping manage stormwater and preventing erosion water. They also provide economic benefits for businesses and residences by reducing the cost and need for mowing, fertilizing and pesticide chemicals.

Find resources such as Plants for a Livable Delaware and a list of Delaware invasive plants through Delaware Audubon Society. Audubon’s Native Plants Database also offers a free, interactive online tool to discover locally native bird-friendly plants, trees, shrubs and grasses and locate local suppliers.

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