July 31, 2019

Van Hollen, Senators Reintroduce Legislation to Protect Native Plant Species

Today, U.S Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and several of his Senate colleagues introduced legislation that would promote native plant use, research, and protection. The Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration, and Promotion Act would encourage federal land management agencies to hire botanists, establish a collaborative grant program to support efforts to keep rare plant species from becoming endangered and help endangered plant species recover, and proactively encourage the use of native plants in projects on federal land when feasible.

“As we work to address climate change and protect the planet, the study, preservation, and cultivation of native plants is an important part of that effort,” Senator Van Hollen said. “By hiring the best and the brightest to serve in the federal government, encouraging their critical work, and incentivizing the use of more native plants, we can help protect our land and curb the harmful impacts of invasive species.” 

“Hawaii is home to over one thousand native plant species, and nearly 90 percent of those are found nowhere else in the world. Without these plants, our communities and our ecosystems face serious economic and ecological consequences,” Senator Hirono said. “This bill would provide federal, state, and local land management entities the tools and resources they need to further protect native plant species and ensure the wellbeing of these plants for generations to come.”

“Plants and plant science are important to our health, economy and wildlife, especially in Delaware,” Senator Carper, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said. “By protecting and restoring the First State’s native plants, we can create wildlife habitat, save water, and even protect coastal communities from the impacts of climate change. That’s why it’s critical that we support federal plant research and restoration activities, both of which are often overlooked in our conversations about environmental protections and funding. I thank Senator Hirono for leading in this effort.”

“In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, invasive aquatic plants are highly concerning, as they colonize quickly, outcompete native vegetation that provide crucial habitat, and degrade wetlands. Dense pockets of species like the common reed also impede waterways and degrade boater experience,” Senator Cardin said. “Expanding our botanical knowledge is critical to the control of current invasive species and rapid response to newly discovered species.”

“As a plant scientist working to conserve rare Hawaiian plants, securing funding for my work can be difficult. Increasing research capacity through competitive grants will help fund the much-needed research to adequately conserve plant biodiversity. This bill seeks to overcome ‘plant blindness’ by raising awareness and increase funding for the conservation of plant species,” Dustin Wolkis, Seed Bank and Laboratory Manager, Department of Science and Conservation, National Tropical Botanical Garden, said.

“In today’s world, the need for using native plants to promote vibrant ecosystems which are drought resistant, wild fire resistant, and resilient has never been greater,” Debbie Edwards, President of The Garden Club of America, said. “Measures such as Senator Hirono’s legislation will help move us in this direction and promote intelligent, cost-effective land management practices.”

The Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration, and Promotion Act would:

  • Establish a competitive grant program within the Department of the Interior (DOI) to states, territories, tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations, local governments, and non-profit organizations for projects that conserve and promote populations of rare plants that are close to becoming endangered and help endangered plant populations recover.
  • Promote the hiring of botanists within the DOI and provide monetary incentives to attract and retain botanists through a student loan repayment program;
  • Instruct the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Defense to provide preference to native plant materials in land management projects and justify the use of non-native plant materials;
  • Require that native plant materials receive preference and are subsequently used in surface transportation projects and federal building design;
  • Promote interagency cooperation for various activities relating to native plants; and
  • Direct the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to incorporate into existing activities native plant conservation.

In addition to Senator Van Hollen, the Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration, and Promotion Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

The full text of the bill is available here. A one page summary and section-by-section breakdown of the bill is available here and here.