Ohio Legislature Grants Invasive Species Authority to Ohio Department of Agriculture
The Ohio House of Representatives gave final approval on May 21, 2014 to a bill initiated in the Senate that addresses invasive plants. As approved by both chambers, Senate Bill 192 grants regulatory authority over invasive plants to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). While ODA, Ohio EPA and Ohio's Division of Forestry already have programs in place to educate and assist in the identification and removal of invasive species, the new law clarifies that the director of ODA has "sole and exclusive authority to regulate invasive plant species in this state." This authority includes the identification of invasive plant species and the establishment of prohibited activities regarding invasive plants.
The bill defines "invasive plant species" as:
"plant species that are not native to this state whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health as determined by scientific studies."
A committee amendment to the bill clarifies that the definition of invasive plant species does not include "cultivated plants grown as food or livestock feed in accordance with generally accepted agricultural practices, including all plants authorized by the animal and plant health inspection service in the USDA." In committee hearings, the Ohio Invasive Plants Council expressed serious concerns about this exclusion for cultivated crops. The group's concern is that ODA would not have authority to evaluate plants with invasive properties if they are grown for livestock feed. Other groups have raised similar worries about plants with invasive characteristics grown for biofuel production. The Ohio Farm Bureau submitted testimony supporting the exemption, stating that the federal government already regulates plants grown for agricultural crops.
The bill contains one exception to ODA's authority over invasive plant regulation. The director of Ohio EPA may continue to consider invasive plant species when evaluating applications and permits for wetlands under Ohio's Water Pollution Control Act. Once ODA develops invasive plant regulations, however, the EPA must refer to ODA's list of invasive plant species when reviewing wetland applications and permits.
Read S.B. 192 here.