Protecting native plants nationally with USDA-NRCS


by Eugene Kelly, Policy and Legislation Chair
A conservation buffer with native plants, photo by Jennifer Hopwood, Xerces Society
The Society recently had an opportunity to speak in support of native plants on a national basis. The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) accepted comments on the Practice Standards they use while implementing Farm Bill[wikipedia] programs. Landowners can apply for funding assistance – typically on a cost-share basis – to make changes to their agricultural practices that achieve a variety of conservation benefits. The general substance or goal of a particular Practice Standard can often be surmised from the title. Examples of Practice Standards promoted by NRCS include Field Border, Forest Stand Improvement, Hedgerow Planting, Streambank and Shoreline Protection, and Upland Wildlife Habitat Management. And the conservation benefits of the practices are aligned with such Farm Bill objectives as reducing erosions, enhancing habitat for wildlife, and attracting pollinators.
One notable deficiency in current Practice Standards is a lack of emphasis on use of native plants when they are appropriate, and even advantageous. We understand the obvious advantages of native plants. When the National Wildlife Federation apprised the Society of this opportunity to recommend changes to the Practice Standards, they invited us to combine our voice with theirs. The eventual result was a joint letter to USDA recommending that most Practice Standards be updated to recommend the preferential use of native plants when they are suitable for the objectives of the practice. By the time the letter was submitted, 70 organizations were signatories and 8 of them were Native Plant Societies. In addition to FNPS, our compatriots in the California, Colorado, Illinois, Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia NPSs also signed on. Our friends at the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council were also included.

Letter | Press Release

Edited by Valerie Anderson, staff

Originally published in the Sabal Minor Vol. 21:3

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