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Support the Native Plants Right to Work Act

A dense planting of native perennial plants does more than just look great. Photo by Torry Nergart.

In the place where good ideas go to die, the State General Assembly, there languishes an easy solution to making our natural landscape a bit more vibrant in a proposed bill which would have state agencies lead by example in planting native plants to benefit our ecosystem.

Senate Bill 628, called the “Native Plants Right to Work” bill, is currently shelved in a Rules Committee until next session. It would direct each agency owning or leasing land to use seeds and plants native to North Carolina. Pretty simple, common sense, right? How gracious of the state to allow a plant the right to work at being a plant.

Though likely to pass when called to final vote, the bill still has garnered some “nays” and has been pecked away at a bit by those who enjoy their stubborn same old ways. Though still relatively intact, this rule could have lasting benefits to North Carolinians, visitors and many others including our living relatives of Earth like the soil, bugs, animals, fish and the air.

Plants that have long since adapted to this area are not just more resilient than say, a Privet bush (Ligustrum sinense). Those plants also are in relation with their living surroundings. They may feed birds through a tough winter, have pollinating bees lay eggs in their stems or cultivate a fungal network for sharing resources.

A comparative “dead zone” would be mass plantings of burning bush (Euonymous alatus) which do not have these adaptations and are likely not to achieve them on any time scale needed to avoid flubbing this whole experiment of humanity, but they do look “pretty” flying down the highway at 75 miles and hour.

It’s not just about the feely-good squishy rainbow stuff; the changes in this bill will have several practical benefits. I’ve learned if you want to justify any (and I mean any) act that benefits our only planetary home, there better be a dollar value attached.

So, if you need that, here you go: as with most plants that are long-adapted to this region and climate, the maintenance costs associated with this type of plant management is significantly lower for the taxpayer. There’s less inputs needed such as fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, gasoline or staff time. Which means those resources, namely staff time, can be directed for additional savings elsewhere. With input from the nursery industry, this bill will also support our state’s horticulturists, which is a significant portion of North Carolina’s number one industry: agriculture and agribusiness.

If you live in Transylvania County, let’s get behind this bill just as our current elected representatives have. To some, plants are so easy to dismiss as unimportant: they don’t shout, run up and smack you. They’re just “there,” passive and unassuming.

In fact, some folks have been “plant-blinded” meaning they may not even see plants as living things, like a backdrop or a stage setting. The reality couldn’t be further from that. Plants are alive; they communicate, they support other lives, they transfer solar energy into the basis of our physical existence, and yes they do look good flying down the highway.

Let’s just make sure we plant the ones we need to help us steward our place on the planet.

Torry Nergart is an avid adventurer, a local Brevard dad and spouse, and just happens to be conservation easement manager for Conserving Carolina, a calling that often puts him in a climbing harness, or waders, on a bike, or, yes, in a kayak, too, to protect the land and water we all love.

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