Laws and Regulations

There are a number of laws and regulations that address the control, eradication or prevention of invasive plant species. New legislation or changes to current legislation have an important impact on how we are able to deal with invasive plant problems. For the benefit of those using this site, we will discuss only a few of the most pertinent pieces of legislation. For a full review of national and state laws and regulations, see the National Invasive Species Center website:

Federal Noxious Weed Act
Visit USDA Plant Database for a complete list of federal noxious weeds.
Overview: The Act provides for the control and management of non-indigenous weeds that injure or have the potential to injure the interests of agriculture and commerce, wildlife resources or the public health.
Policy: Congress found that noxious weeds interfere with the growth of useful plants, clog waterways, interfere with navigation, cause disease and generally are detrimental to agriculture, commerce and the public health. Congress determined that regulation of transactions in and movement of noxious weeds was necessary.
Selected Definitions:   Noxious weed: any living stage (including seeds and reproductive parts) of a parasitic or other plant of a kind which is of foreign origin, is new to or not widely prevalent in the U.S., and can directly or indirectly injure crops, other useful plants, livestock, poultry or other interests of agriculture, including irrigation, navigation, fish and wildlife resources, or the public health.   Undesirable plants: species classified as undesirable, noxious, harmful, exotic, injurious, or poisonous under state or federal law, but not including species listed as endangered by the Endangered Species Act, or species indigenous to the area where control measures are to be taken.   Secretary: the Secretary of Agriculture or a designee.   Move: deposit for transmission in the mails, ship, offer for shipment, offer for entry, import, receive for transportation, carry, or otherwise transport or move, or allow to be moved.   Integrated management system: a system for planning and implementing a program, using an interdisciplinary approach, to select a method for containing or controlling undesirable plant species, using all available methods, including education, preventive measures, physical or mechanical methods, biological agents, herbicide methods, cultural methods, and land management practices such as manipulation of livestock, wildlife grazing strategies or improving wildlife or livestock habitat.
Movement of Noxious Weeds Into or Through the U.S.: No person may import or move any noxious weed identified by regulations of the Secretary into or through the U.S. except in compliance with the regulations, which may require that permits be obtained. No person may knowingly sell, purchase, barter, exchange, give or receive any noxious weed moved in violation of these provisions or deliver or receive for transportation any advertisement to sell, purchase, barter, exchange, give or receive a noxious weed whose movement is prohibited.
The Secretary may promulgate inspection and quarantine regulations to prevent the dissemination of noxious weeds. The Secretary may temporarily quarantine any state, territory or district or any portion, and may prohibit the interstate movement of any products from the quarantined area. Quarantine regulations expire 90 days after promulgation unless the Secretary determines, after a public hearing, that a quarantine and regulations are necessary to protect agriculture, commerce, wildlife resources, or the public health.
The Act empowers the Secretary to seize, quarantine, treat, destroy or dispose of any product or article infested by a noxious weed as an emergency measure to prevent dissemination. The owner of destroyed property may recover compensation for the lost property if legal action is taken within one year after the loss and the owner establishes that the Secretary's action was not authorized by the Act.
Enforcement: The Act authorizes the Secretary's inspectors to stop and inspect, without warrant, any product, article, or means of conveyance moving into the U.S., or with probable cause, through the U.S. Inspectors may enter premises with a warrant to perform inspections or other actions necessary under the Act. A person who knowingly violates the Act or any regulation under the Act will be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be punished by a fine, imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both.
Regulations: The Secretary may promulgate regulations to carry out provisions of the Act. Regulations identifying plants as noxious weeds may be promulgated only after publication of notice and, when requested, a public hearing. A plant may be deemed a noxious weed if it falls within the Act's definition of a noxious weed and if there is a reasonable expectation that its dissemination will injure, to a serious degree, agriculture, navigation, fish and wildlife resources, or the public health.