Frayed Seams in the 'Patchwork Quilt' of American Federalism: An Empirical Analysis of Invasive Plant Species Regulation
55 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2013
Date Written: January 4, 2013
Increased demand for biomass feedstocks to meet renewable energy mandates will require development of newer, bigger and better plant resources. Ideal biomass traits – fast growth and ability to outcompete local vegetation, prolific seed production, adaptability to a variety of soil and climatic conditions, and resistance to pests and diseases – also typify invasive flora. Next-generation biofuel feedstocks may be more productive and profitable at the individual farm level, but also may pose a greater risk of becoming invasive, thereby damaging the broader ecosystem and the economy. Accordingly, the agronomist’s search for yield maximizing biofuel crops for deployment into novel agricultural production systems and new spatial environments, combined with a policy priority to encourage bioenergy production, prompts a careful reexamination of the regulatory landscape for invasive plants to assess the potential for both ex ante and ex post improvements. Our empirical analysis of state regulatory frameworks demonstrates that most states fail to regulate invasive plant species (on average, states restrict only 19.6 percent of current invasive plant species within their jurisdiction) and are ill-prepared to manage potential ecological pressure arising from the introduction of new plants. Our typological analysis of state regulatory structures yielded similarly discouraging results, with no regime exhibiting a statistically significant correlation with improved invasive species regulation. We offer three recommendations to improve state responses to the ecological threats posed by invasive plant species, including: formalization of state invasive species councils within the regulatory structure; improved pre-commercialization control through weed risk assessments; and a negligence-based liability regime to shift economic incentives to control introduction and spread of invasive plant species.
Keywords: biomass, bioenergy, feedstock, invasive, noxious, weed, ecology, risk assessment
JEL Classification: K32, Q15, Q18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation