Harrisburg, PA – Recognizing the increasing threat invasive species pose to Pennsylvania’s economy and its people, Governor Tom Wolf today announced an additional step to complement recent bipartisan legislation to help battle against bad bugs and out-of-control plants that threaten Pennsylvania’s ecosystems, as well as its agriculture and other natural resource industries.
Yesterday, Governor Wolf signed a new executive order expanding the Governor’s Invasive Species Council to bring additional expertise and resources to bear in protecting the commonwealth from new species, such as the spotted lanternfly, which has been found in 13 southeastern Pennsylvania counties.
“Invasive species are a growing problem for us in Pennsylvania – just as they are worldwide,” said Governor Wolf. “When a new pest or species is introduced into an ecosystem, it disrupts the natural order, posing a threat to native species, established industries, and the quality of life of our residents. Responding to these threats is a shared responsibility of government at all levels, as well as the private sector and the public. This new executive order expands the Invasive Species Council, bringing more stakeholders and resources to the table and ensuring more parties are involved in developing coordinated response and management plans.”
Executive order 2017-07, which updates an earlier executive order, expands public membership on the Governor’s Invasive Species Council from 10 to 14 members. The expanded council paves the way for adding representatives of county and municipal governments, conservation districts and the transportation sector. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding will continue to serve as the council’s chairperson.
The new council will be better able to coordinate resources, develop plans, engage with partners, and implement response strategies to new threats. This is a pressing need because a changing climate and greater level of international trade are opening Pennsylvania to more types of invasive species threats. In addition to the spotted lanternfly, which could impact hundreds of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania agricultural commodities and the quality of life in communities, the commonwealth is facing other threats from species such as hydrilla, an invasive plant affecting the state’s lakes; Round Goby, a fish invading rivers, and the Great Lakes; and Palmer Amaranth, an invasive weed affecting row crops.
Governor Wolf’s new executive order follows his signing of the Controlled Plants and Noxious Weeds law in October. The new law, Act 46 of 2017, takes effect next Friday, on December 29. It was sponsored by Representative Eddie Day Pashinski and passed both the House and Senate unanimously.
A noxious weed is a plant or part of a plant that could harm crops, livestock, the land or bodies of water, or that has been so designated by the federal government. A committee of 13 members is responsible for designating a weed as noxious in Pennsylvania. The committee includes the heads of six state agencies, the House and Senate agriculture and rural affairs committees, and representatives of a statewide farm organization, the horticulture industry, and academia.
Act 46 repeals the previous noxious weed law in favor of a more proactive approach to control existing and potentially noxious weeds, while maximizing resources to control invasive species and protect Commonwealth lands. At the same time, the new law will allow for the cultivation of some controlled plants that have beneficial characteristics or offer economic value.
“Governor Wolf and his administration are taking the threat of invasive species very seriously because of what it means for this commonwealth,” said Secretary Redding. “If these pests and these dangerous plants become established in Pennsylvania, it could be devastating for the people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. It could hurt our tourism industry by making water recreation impossible. And, as we’ve seen with the spotted lanternfly, it could be an incredible nuisance for families who live in infested areas. We want to be proactive in our response, and these new tools will better enable us to do that.”
To learn more about the Governor’s Invasive Species Council, visit agriculture.pa.gov.