Legislation Outlawing Invasive Weeds Heads To Governor

The Illinois General Assembly has sent Senate Bill 681, which would ban the sale or distribution of eight species of invasive plants, to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature.

“Exotic invasive plants threaten to overrun Illinois forests, wetlands, and prairies if we don’t take steps to keep them out,” said Terri Treacy, Springfield Representative for the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.  “This important update to the Exotic Weed Act will help ensure Illinois is doing what we can to respond to the threats posed by these invasive plants.”

Exotic weeds are plants that are not native to North America and when introduced, spread aggressively. Since these plants are in a new environment, free from the natural predators, parasites, or competitors of their native habitats, they often grow to have very high population sizes and densities. These large populations can out-compete and displace native species, degrade natural communities, reduce wildlife food and habitat, disrupt vital ecosystem functions, cause economic damage to agriculture, and reduce the value of fish and wildlife habitat.

“The spread of alien invasives is a growing threat to Illinois’ natural heritage, and to our agricultural economy,” said State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), lead sponsor of SB681.  “Now we can better protect Illinois from harm by preventing the spread of these invasive weeds.”

SB 681 was sponsored in the Illinois House by State Representative Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg).  In 2003 Phelps led efforts prohibit several species under the Exotic Weed Act, including kudzu and non-native species of buckthorn.

The existing Exotic Weed Act prohibits the sale or distribution of plant seeds, plants or plant parts of exotic weeds without a permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources. SB 681 amends the Exotic Weed Act by adding new exotic weeds, including exotic species of bush honeysuckle, olive, salt cedar, poison hemlock, giant hogweed, Oriental bittersweet, teasel and knotweed. SB 681 is supported by the Illinois Invasive Plant Species Council, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Farm Bureau.

“The plant and tree species that end up on this banned list have been thoroughly evaluated utilizing sound science and taking into consideration the potential economic impact of removing them from the marketplace,” Joe Khayyat, Illinois Green Industry Association Executive Director, said. “The plants added to the Exotic Weed List by this legislation were a result of this collaborative process – a process that is good for growers and purveyors of plant and tree material, small business owners across the state and ultimately future generations that will call Illinois their home.”

The General Assembly is also considering Senate Joint Resolution 9, which permanently designates May as Invasive Species Awareness Month. Each May for the last five years, organizations, agencies, and groups from across Illinois have teamed up to organize events that raise awareness of the negative impacts of invasive species on Illinois’ landscape and economy.  This year is no exception with over 160 educational events taking place this month.  SJR 9, sponsored by State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) and State Representative Deb Conroy (D-Glen Ellyn) has been approved by the Illinois Senate, and awaits approval by the Illinois House.

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