Frayed Seams in the "Patchwork Quilt" of American Federalism: An Empirical Analysis of Invasive Plant Species Regulation


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Implementation of certain state and federal renewable energy mandates will require development of new, higher-yielding plant resources. However, many invasive plant species share biological characteristics with ideal biomass feedstocks, such as rapid growth and ability to outcompete local vegetation, prolific seed generation, adaptability to an assortment of soil and climatic conditions, and lack of, or resistance to, pests and diseases. 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, combined with potties that encourage bioenergy production, prompts a careful re-examination of the regulatory landscape for invasive plants. Our empirical analysis of state regulatory frameworks demonstrates that most states fail to regulate invasive plant species (on average, states restrict only 19.696 of invasive plant species in 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: 1) formalization of state invasive species councils within the regulatory structure; 2) improved pro-commercialization control through weed risk assessments; 3) and a negligence-based liability regime to shift economic incentives in order to control the introduction and spread of invasive plant species.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-81
Number of pages47
JournalEnvironmental Law (00462276)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Renewable energy sources -- Law & legislation
  • Agriculturists
  • Biomass chemicals
  • Energy crops
  • Invasive plants -- Law & legislation
  • Federal government -- United States
  • Empirical research
  • Ecosystem dynamics


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