BLM makes a difference at World Restoration Conference

Story by Amanda (Mandie) Carr, BLM Coordinator of Botanical Communication and Outreach. Photos courtesy of Idaho Botanical Garden; Lynda Moore, Program Manager/USDA-FS Restoration Services Team; and MARSB/Seeds of Success.

The BLM Plant Conservation and Restoration Program (PCRP) played a prominent role in the Society for Ecological Restoration’s (SER) 2021 virtual conference in June. SER is an international, non-governmental organization that advances the science, practice, and policy of restoration to conserve biodiversity and improve climate resilience. Every two years, SER hosts the World Conference on Ecological Restoration to bring together experts in the scientific, technical, and socio-economic dimensions of restoring damaged and degraded ecosystems.

Successful restoration of native forbs and grasses along the historic Columbia River Highway State Trail between Cascade Locks and Hood River, Oregon. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Moore)
Successful restoration of native forbs and grasses along the historic Columbia River Highway State Trail between Cascade Locks and Hood River, Oregon. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Moore)

BLM PCRP’s participation in SER2021 included organizing a volunteer event, hosting an exhibit booth, leading symposia, and arranging for the registration of 70 BLM staff, all of which demonstrated that BLM is a world leader in the conservation and restoration of adaptive, resilient, and biodiverse ecosystems.

During SER2021’s Make a Difference Week, BLM PCRP-HQ co-hosted a volunteer event with the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise, Idaho to remove invasive weeds from the Garden grounds. Over three hours, 20 volunteers from BLM, USDA-FS, USGS, Great Basin Fire Science Exchange, SER, and others removed three cubic yards of weeds comprising 10 invasive species. These numbers added to SER’s global tally for the Week, during which more than 2,400 volunteers across 34 countries planted 30,150 plants and removed 12,000 pounds of invasive plants and 25,000 pounds of garbage from lands and waters all over the world. 

Volunteers with three cubic yards of invasive weeds removed during BLM’s event for SER2021’s Make a Difference Week. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Botanical Garden, with permission).
Volunteers with three cubic yards of invasive weeds removed during BLM’s event for SER2021’s Make a Difference Week. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Botanical Garden, with permission).

Peggy Olwell, BLM PCRP Lead, convened one SER2021 symposium titled “The True Green Infrastructure: Model to Develop Native Plant Materials from Wildland Seed to Restoration” and presented in another session, “U.S. National Seed Strategy: First 5 Years and What the Future Holds.”

The “True Green Infrastructure” symposium featured five speakers discussing a national approach to developing locally adapted native seed for restoring resilient ecosystems. Topics included the importance of seed collections in preserving genetic material of fire-prone plant populations (Sarah Barga, USDA-FS), the recent explosion of native plant materials research (Francis Kilkenny, USDA-FS), monitoring after wildfire rehabilitation to inform adaptive management (Matthew Germino, USGS), BLM’s IDIQ Contract for Native Grass and Forb Seed Increase (Anne Halford, BLM), and an “all-lands” approach to collaborative restoration planning (Lynda Moore, USDA-FS).

The “National Seed Strategy” symposium featured six speakers who discussed the lack of genetically diverse native seed for large-scale restoration (Kayri Havens, Chicago Botanic Garden), scientific avenues to address the shortage of native seeds (Lesley DeFalco, USGS), decision support tools for land managers undertaking restoration (Vicky Erickson, USDA-FS), communication tools for successful collaborations (Patricia De Angelis, USFWS), regional approaches to native seed collection (Ed Toth, Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank), and future directions for the National Seed Strategy (Peggy Olwell, BLM). ​​​​​​​

Native switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) seed collected by Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank team for Seeds of Success. (Photo by MARSB/Seeds of Success).
Native switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) seed collected by Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank team for Seeds of Success. (Photo by MARSB/Seeds of Success).

The virtual platform of the SER2021 Conference allowed BLM’s message to reach a domestic and international audience. BLM PCRP’s virtual exhibit booth attracted visitors from Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Lebanon, Mexico, and the U.S. Combined, the two native seed symposia drew in participants from nine countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, and the U.S.

Throughout the conference, at home and abroad, BLM offered inspiration and guidance for the development of locally adapted native plant materials and their use in restoring adaptive and resilient ecosystems.