State wants to limit sale of invasive species

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

The Indiana Natural Resources Commission took a step toward banning the sale and transportation of 44 invasive species in the state at its meeting earlier this month.

Invasive species are non-native plants that move into an area and take over, often choking out native plants and causing native wildlife to seek new shelter. According to an Indiana Department of Natural Resources press release, 22 of the 44 plants on the list can be found in trade in Indiana now, but only four are sold regularly. If the ban goes into effect, nurseries and businesses will likely be given time to sell off affected stock.

The goal of the ban, according to the press release, is to reduce the number of non-native plants escaping into the wilderness to lower the amount of state and federal funding required to control them. Currently, an estimated $8.6 million is spent annually to manage invasive species in Indiana. Locally, citizens, volunteers with the Invasive Species Awareness Coalition of Dubois County, foresters with the DNR and Purdue Extension and the Dubois County Soil and Water District work together to battle invasive species in the area.

“It’s frustrating to try to get rid of (invasive plants) on your property and have your neighbor planting the same thing you’re trying to get rid of,” said Judy Brown, the executive director of the Dubois County Soil and Water District.

If the ban goes into effect, it will help with that. Autumn olive, white mulberry, poison hemlock and Japanese honeysuckle are a few invasive species found in Dubois County that made the potential list of banned plants. Callery pear, also known as Bradford pear, another invasive plant causing problems in Dubois County, did not make the list.

Brown explained that invasive plants are an issue because they tend to green up earlier in the spring and stay green longer in the fall. Because of invasive plants’ longer growing season, native plants are often choked out. In some cases, Brown said, the invasive plants can change soil composition to make the area inhospitable to native plants.

“They tend to take over the area and change the ecosystem,” Brown said.

For Natalie Combs, owner of Green Thumb Garden Center in Jasper, the possible ban isn’t a concern. The Invasive Species Awareness Coalition of Dubois County came into her shop about three years ago with some information about invasive species, Combs recalled. After that, she quit ordering the invasive plants.

“It’s not much of an impact (on the business) because you know you’re having a bigger impact on the other side,” she said of her decision.

Although the Natural Resources Commission gave the ban preliminary approval, it is still far from becoming law. The next step is to give the public an opportunity to comment in writing or through two public hearings that will be scheduled at times and sites still to be determined. After the hearings, the commission will vote again for final approval. If the ban gets final approval, it goes to the Indiana attorney general for legal review and approval before finally going to the governor’s desk where it can be rejected or signed into law.




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