MACo Seeks Reasonable Waivers in Invasive/Non-Native Species Law

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified on January 28 before the House Government and Operations Committee to support HB 92 Procurement – Invasive and Nonnative Plant Species – Prohibition on Use of State Funds with amendments. This bill prohibits state funds from being used to buy or plant nonnative species as designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mr. Sanderson urged a “reasonable” waiver process – raising concerns that a last-minute denial of certain plantings could upend a years-in-the-making project. The sponsor, Delegate Eric Luedtke, had already intimated his optimism that amendments could address bill concerns.

From the MACo Testimony:

Under the bill as introduced, a waiver may be obtained from the Board of Public Works to permit a nonnative planting. MACo supports amendments to clarify that the waivers be by class/circumstance, rather than by project – to avoid long term uncertainty regarding a given project.

Counties use state funds such as Program Open Space for projects like grass sports fields. Nonnative grasses like Bermuda are widely used due to their durability. Bermuda in particular has a higher wear tolerance, and a lower irrigation requirement, making it a useful and cost-effective nonnative plant. However, nonnative fields may not qualify under the existing waiver provision that allows for nonnative plants if “conditions at the site on which the plant species will be planted are too harsh for a similar native plant species to survive.”

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2021 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.