Thursday, April 02, 2009

Annapolis Ordinance No. O-05-09: a Disservice to Invasive Species Issues

The capitol city of Maryland, Annapolis, is considering an ordinance “…to prohibit invasive plants on any lot or parcel of land within the City unless the plant is completed contained to control growth and prevent encroachment.”[1] But because this is not a bill to protect natural area ecosystem services but to enforce taste and tranquility on neighboring residents without adding to city expenses, the ordinance makes sweeping exceptions that include “… bona fide agricultural property, natural wooded areas, unimproved areas of more than three acres, public parks and recreational property being specifically maintained as natural areas, private open space areas covenanted with the City as recreational areas to be maintained in their natural state, and areas where vegetation is deemed necessary for soil stabilization and erosion control…” Quite effectively the city of Annapolis guts the reason to be concerned about invasive species – the protection of natural areas’ ecosystems and their services.

Hiding behind invasive species to promulgate a weed law will negatively impact public perception of valid invasive species programs. If Annapolis does not like some ornamental plants, then the city should say so. If Annapolis wants to help the ecosystem then prohibit the species on ALL the land not just the land of private citizens, and present a model law, public costs and all included.

Ordinance No. O-05-09 does a poor job at defining everything from an invasive plant to the concept of containment. This is a legislative attempt to solve a dispute between neighbors; it is not an effort to control and mitigate the damage to the environment that invasive species can cause.

· Annapolis MD's Ordinance No. O-05-09 does not mention the National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee federal definition white paper that explores the definition of invasive species at length
· U. S. Executive Order 13112 – defines an invasive species as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”
· Ordinance No. O-05-09 makes no mention of the Maryland Invasive Species Council’s advisory list. The ordinance does however cite an educational list from the southeastern United States.
· Invasive species are harmful to natural area eco-systems that are exempt under Ordinance No. O-05-09. The proposed law exempts natural areas and parks, and landscapes most harmed by invasive species. The exemption makes little sense as many invasive plant species have traditional ornamental value providing at least a high level eco-system informing or cultural service.
· Ordinance No. O-05-09 does not define containment.
· Ordinance No. O-05-09 does not prohibit the planting or growth of invasive plants; it requires that such plants be contained by barriers or other similar means so as to keep the plants from encroaching upon abutting property, city easements, or public right-of-ways. However it does not require the City to remove invasive species from its public lands setting up the possible endless cycle of removal by private property owners, ad infinitum.
· Ordinance No. O-05-09 presents, as substantiating reasons, definitions of traditional landscape ground covers as reasons to ban traditional landscape groundcovers that have few, if any, natural predators, such as herbivores and diseases, to keep them in check. Many ornamental ground covers share some important characteristics that allow them to grow quickly in adverse, high human traffic situations. These include: (1) spreading aggressively by runners or rhizomes; (2) producing large numbers of seeds that survive to germinate; and (3) dispersing seeds away from the parent plant through various means such as wind, water, wildlife and people. This is a circular argument.
· The ordinance fails to address the natural area implications of invasive species impacts using language meant for “natural” undeveloped land.

[1] O-05-09; Invasive Plants:

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