by Chelsea Arnott, CGAPS Planner
What if we knew about Miconia’s invasive impacts elsewhere and had been able to restrict it from importation and sale in Hawai`i? Today, we have the knowledge and tools to assess a plant’s potential to be invasive before it arrives, but we lack a regulatory mechanism to keep them out. Stemming in part from past LICH President Boyd Ready’s request to have a single list for prevention, the Coordinating Group on Alien Plant Species (CGAPS) has been working to develop a proposed State Restricted Plant List and set of rules that would reduce the risk of some future invasive plant introductions for Hawai`i.
Historically, Hawaii’s geographic isolation limited the number of plants that were able to arrive and establish. Since Western contact 240 years ago, more than 8,000 species of plants have been introduced to the islands. The majority of these have been either beneficial or at least benign. However, of those plants that became invasive to Hawaii’s natural areas, the majority (>80%) were intentionally introduced.
Current Federal and State Noxious Seed and Weed rules regulate about 200 species of plants. Half of the plants on the State list are already present in Hawaiʻi and the Federal list consists mainly of plants that are detrimental to U.S. crops and forestry. Prior to 2008, plants on the State Noxious Weed list like Miconia were still allowed to be imported and sold in Hawaiʻi and there is still no list that restricts the entry of new plant species that are highly likely to be invasive if they are imported.
In 2008, legislators amended the Hawaiʻi Revised Statute (HRS) § 150A-6.1, with the intent of clarifying that invasive plants may be restricted from importation and sale. At the same time the Noxious Weed rules were placed under this same statue to regulate their importation and sale. This statute authorizes the Board of Agriculture to maintain a list of restricted plants that are not allowed to be imported into the state except by permit, but HDOA does not have the administrative rules for creating such a list of restricted plant species. With more than 300,000 species of plants in the world, where could we start?
With funding from Hau`oli Mau Loa Foundation, CGAPS contracted Shahin Ansari (PhD botanist & former HPWRA screener) to develop a science based approach for identifying plants that are considered “offshore” (not yet in Hawaiʻi) and incipient (present in limited numbers or islands), that are in the horticultural, forestry or biofuel trade (and therefore have the potential to be imported into Hawaiʻi), and that are considered high risk when screened with the Hawaiʻi Pacific Weed Risk Assessment (HPWRA). To start, noxious weed and invasive plant lists collected from each U.S. state and various countries formed a starting list of over 1,000 plants. This list was filtered through the criteria above and the result is 38 species of plants being proposed for restricted importation.
Opportunity for plant industries to provide feedback continues to be an important part of the process. The proposed restricted plant list was presented to island-based plant groups and at statewide forums like the LICH conference. At this year’s LICH conference, Chelsea Arnott and Christy Martin from CGAPS, and Shahin Ansari from H.T. Harvey and Associates, provided an update on what’s been done over the last year and what are the next steps. A summary of the proposed draft rules was included in the update. A recorded version of the presentation is also available on the Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council’s website https://youtu.be/HT44Yt3VS28. The presentation was part of the HISC Brown Bag series.
Moving forward, the next step will be to petition the Board of Agriculture (BOA) to allow the proposed list and new restricted plant draft rules to enter into rule-making and allow public hearings on each island. The petition package includes the proposed draft rules and list of 38 plant species that will be submitted to the BOA thirty days prior to their scheduled meeting. Petitioning the BOA is one of the most transparent ways to enter into rule-making. The public is able to submit written and oral testimony at the scheduled meeting. Agendas for the BOA meetings can be viewed here along with information on how to submit testimony: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/chair/boa/board-of-agriculture-meetings/.
Anyone of the 38 species of plants listed below could be the next Miconia and with the Restricted Plant Rules and List we can be proactive in preventing the introduction of new invasive plants into Hawaiʻi.