In mid-February 2017, about 300 scientists, land managers, restoration practitioners and seed production experts met in Washington, D.C. at the National Native Seed Conference. This event is held every two years to unite people working with native plant materials development, production and use in habitat restoration. The meeting is also an important mechanism to promote the National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration, which aims to guide ecological restoration across large landscapes of the United States.
I attended and learned how to expand and improve our native seed program, which consists of seed collection of rare species for ex situ conservation and more common native species for ongoing restoration efforts. Using information I learned at the conference, I am reviewing our priorities for collecting the 68 species we steward as part of the species in the National Collection for the Center for Plant Conservation. The new information is also relevant to our research around collection and production of native species for restoration. Specifically, graduate student Katherine Fu (University of Colorado Denver) is developing research focused on maintaining genetic diversity through the production process needed to increase native seed for restoration efforts.
In addition to learning about ongoing research and management efforts, time was also devoted to advocacy. We were privileged to have U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) welcome us at the opening plenary session. He announced that he, along with co-sponsor U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), would be introducing the Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration and Promotion Act (aka the “Botany Bill”) on Valentine’ Day. The bill addresses the lack of botanical science research, the lack of botanical scientists (especially in federal agencies), the need to stimulate demand for native plant materials and the need to reinforce the importance of native plants. For more information on the bill and a list of endorsing organizations (including Denver Botanic Gardens), visit the Plant Conservation Alliance website.