Native Plant Materials Development Program
Congress created the Native Plant Materials Development Program in 2001 to help ensure a stable and economical supply of genetically appropriate native plant materials for use in restoration and rehabilitation efforts on public lands. It is the first program to coordinate native plant materials development on a national scale. The BLM administers the program and allocates resources to States and ecoregional programs throughout the West. The program seeks to expand seed collection and curation, increase seed storage capacity, and develop seed transfer zones and guidelines.
The BLM recently published the Native Plant Materials Development Progress Report, which summarizes the activities and achievements of the program from 2001 through 2007, including funding, allocation to state and regional partnerships, and annual performance toward meeting the goal of ensuring a stable and economical supply of native plant materials.
Native Plant Materials Development Process
The BLM is the largest native seed buyer in the Western Hemisphere, purchasing more than 11 million pounds of native seed between 2004 and 2008, an average of 2.2 million pounds per year. Currently, native seed is not available in the quantity and quality the BLM needs for fire rehabilitation, reclamation and restoration projects. Because of the lack of commercially available native seed, BLM must often use nonnative seed; BLM purchased over 6.6 million pounds of nonnative seed between 2004 - 2008.
Steps in the Process
There are many steps involved in the process of developing a reliable, stable crop from wild collected species. Native plant materials, like agronomic crops, take an average of 10-20 years to develop as consistent, reliable commercially available species. Starting with native seed collection, the time and length of each step in the development process varies for each grass, forb and shrub. Click here to download a description of the Native Plant Materials Development Cycle, from Step 1 - Native Seed Collection to Step 6 - Restoration.
The BLM is working on an interagency strategy to help guide resources toward native plant materials development. The program has established partnerships with research and development organizations, native seed producers and other agencies to work on the native plant materials development process, from wildland seed collection to restoration of native plant communities via genetically appropriate commercially available native seed.
Seeds of Success
In a unique partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) in England, the BLM established the Seeds of Success program in 2001 to connect organizations around the country to collect and preserve plant diversity for future generations. The program collects, conserves, and develops native plant materials for stabilizing, rehabilitating and restoring lands in the United States. The program has quickly grown beyond the initial partnership and now includes many additional partners, such as botanic gardens, arboreta, zoos, and municipalities. These teams share a common technical protocol and coordinate seed collecting and species targeting efforts through the BLM. This partnership is a vital part of the Native Plant Materials Development Program.
Collectively, the program has made more than 9,000 wildland native seed collections, representing more than 3,000 species, to support the National Native Plant Materials Development Program. Seeds of Success has banked over 10 percent of all U.S. flora for future generations, making it an instrumental partner in assisting the MSB Project in meeting its initial global goal of collecting 10 percent of the world’s flora in a span of 10 years.
The Seeds of Success national collection is being used for research such as germination trials, common garden studies, and protocol establishment to develop native plant materials for restoration of the American landscape. Portions of each collection are also being held in long-term storage facilities for conservation.
In June of 2008, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the BLM, Chicago Botanic Garden, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, New England Wild Flower Society, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, North Carolina Botanical Garden, and the Zoological Society of San Diego. The MOU ratifies Seeds of Success as a BLM-coordinated national native seed collection program in the United States.
To access the Seeds of Success homepage, click here: http://www.nps.gov/plants/sos/
BLM REGIONAL NATIVE PLANT PROGRAMS
Colorado Plateau Native Plant Initiative
Great Basin Native Plant Selection and Increase Project
From Seeds of Success Intern to BLM Employee: A Young Naturalist Launches a Career
How does a young naturalist from North Carolina wind up as a natural resources specialist in the BLM’s Roswell, New Mexico, Field Office?
When Mary Colbert graduated in 2008 with a naturalist degree from Lees-McRae, a small private college in North Carolina, she was not sure where her job search would take her. One thing she was sure of—she needed more experience in order to be competitive. Searching the web for opportunities, she came across the internship program of the Chicago Botanic Garden, applied and was accepted.
Her first assignment was in the Seeds of Success program sponsored and funded primarily by the BLM. That took her to Carson City, Nevada, in August of 2008 where she collected seeds in the desert for 5 months. As the term expired, she was offered another internship more in line with her special interest in wildlife. That took her to Roswell, New Mexico, in 2009, where she worked for BLM on conservation and management of two species of concern—the sand dune lizard and the lesser prairie chicken—while also monitoring the endangered Kuenzler's cactus population.
There, Mary learned to do everything from catching lizards to creating GIS databases. “The assistant field manager wanted me to get as much experience as possible,” she said. “I even learned plumbing; we had to fix broken pipes on wildlife water structures; I learned to drive over loose sand dunes in remote areas and I did photo monitoring, from taking the pictures to handling the databases.” The Cato fire provided more learning opportunities. That fire burned more than 55,000 acres of grass and shrub lands about 45 miles east of Roswell in June 2009.
The most important thing she learned? “You don’t have to know everything,” she says. “You can learn it, and they’ll teach you what you need to know. The BLM staff was great; everyone was very helpful and supportive. You just have to have a willingness to learn. Being from North Carolina, I really felt outside of my element; this is an entirely different ecosystem. But each step along the way has given me more confidence, to do the job and do it successfully.”
In January 2010, as her second internship was about to expire, the BLM was able to hire her as a natural resources specialist in a term position in the Roswell field office. She now is the Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation Coordinator for the Cato fire, responsible for documenting, managing and monitoring vegetation recovery actions. “Here, I do a little bit of everything,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for a better job.”