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Jonathan Kirschner wrote:

>Recently, Karen Randall alerted us to the fact that the Massachusetts state
>legislature was considering an ill-conceived and misguided attempt to ban the
>import of "non-native" aquatic plant species into the state.  I fear that
>this may only be the beginning, and that coastal states and those with
>extensive inland waterways may be particularly at risk for such legislation. 
>The fact that New Hampshire has already fallen victim to such a law should
>serve as a warning.  Forewarned is forearmed...let's prepare in advance and
>not wait until a bill is actually introduced into our state legislatures.  
> I think that any letter we draft should show that we have a thorough
>understanding of the subject and should include the reasons why the aquarium
>plants we cultivate pose no threat to waterways and native species.  

The problem is that many of our aquarium plants _do_ pose a very real
threat to native waterways if they are allowed to escape.  There are some
plants that _should_ be outlawed IMO.  Myriophyllum aquaticum, Cabomba
caroliniana and Trapa natans are the prime culprits in my area.  I would
fully support a ban on their sale.  

But there has to be a balance between allowing people to pursue their
interests and the need to protect our environment.  We can't seem to get
hand guns outlawed even though our children get killed by them.  It seems a
little ridiculous to totally outlaw aquatic plants when, as long as they
are handled appropriately, they are no risk to anyone or anything.

What is _not_ appropriate is when legislators decide to put a blanket ban
on all plants, or even all plants in a specific genus because they don't
want to take the time to learn which ones are a threat and which ones are
not.  This appears to be the route NH has taken.

As aquarists (and this hold true even more for pond owners) we have to do
our part to educate others about the dangers of accidental introduction of
non-native species.  We also have to personally be _sure_ that we handle
the wastes and excess plants from our tanks in an environmentally
responsible manner.

As an update on the situation here in MA, I have talked to my local Rep.
She was very responsive, and is sending me a copy of the study that has
already been completed on invasive non-native plants in our state.  She has
asked if I would be willing to either write a letter or testify in person
regarding this matter before the committee.  I told her I would be happy to
do either or both.

SO FAR, I am guardedly optimistic.  Contrary to the newspaper report, the
actual legislation proposes to create, in essence, a "dirty list".  The
committee that will decide what plants are on that list include a botanist
and two members of the nursery association.  I have offered to help them in
any way I can as well.  

>What I have in mind is a one-pager (most legislators
>won't read anything longer) with an introductory statement of purpose and
>then a list of  bulletized facts (i.e non-native species are inadvertently
>transported by boats, not by hobbyists;  species common to the aquarium hobby
>will not survive in local waters; etc.). 

The truth is a little more difficult than this.  Yes boats are the major
offenders, but SOMEONE is responsible for the original release of
non-natives.  I wouldn't say for certain that it was not irresponsible
hobbyists.  And although some aquarium plants clearly will not survive
freezing temperatures, many others definitely can.  Warmer areas of the
country obviously have even more to be concerned about.  

> Now that we know that there is a  threat, we should use the power
>of this list to protect our hobby.  Letter writing campaigns do work if they
>are properly organized.  

You are absolutely correct!  Many legislators have no idea how many people
are involved in the aquarium hobby.  They wouldn't dream of trying to
outlaw boating, fishing or terrestrial gardening, all of which pose similar
risks.   Can you imagine the uproar!?!  We need to make our needs and
wishes clear.