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I read the legislative document, read the discussion here, talked to a few
folks about the broader issue of non-native plants and thought it over a
As near as I can tell, the document just says "Non-native aquatic plants
are causing problems that the Commonwealth of Massachusettes should work
collectively to solve." It doesn't matter whether you look at it from an
aquarist's point of view, an environmentalist's point of view, or the
point of view of a duck hunter, fisherman or boater. Once you dig past
the potentially questionable details, its a pretty simple statement. I
guess if you live in the Commonwealth, then you can look around and see if
you think that's true. I don't live there.
To solve the problem, the legislation proposes building a list of
banned plants, funding plant removal programs and funding studies of the
problems. If one accepts the original statement of policy, then the next
question would be "Is this an effective solution?"
I think the legislation proposes a bandaid solution. It's measures are
aimed largely at alleviating the sympton and probably leave the cause
I'm familiar with a few cases of non-native plant invasion. Those cases
aren't aquatic, but I doubt that makes much difference. Plants that are
native to an environment are very competitive when that environment is
substantially unchanged. When the environment is changed the native
plants (now growing in an environment they aren't native to) lose out to
non-native plants that are better adapted to the altered environment.
So non-native tamarisk takes over from native cottonwood when flooding
(essential to cottonwood seed germination) is controlled by dam
construction. Non native russian thistle replaces native grasses when
rangeland is overgrazed. Perhaps non-native egeria densa gets established
in New England when industrial cooling water, urban runoff and municipal
sewage raises the winter water temperatures to the point where tropical
plants can survive a harsh winter?
Restoring the conditions that your native plants are native to is the real
solution, but that's probably a lot more expensive than this legislation
contemplates. The real solution would have a long list of additional
long-term benefits, while the approach in this legislation is little more
than a public employment program (through its plant removal funding) with
little promise for success even in the limited goals it sets.
If the legislation is approved then you will want to have a voice on the
panel that names the banned plants. Aquatic gardeners in Massachusettes
should stay actively involved. Your voice in the regulatory process may
be more important than any effect you could have in the legislative