Seed Collection Policy and Pricing

IM 2013-176
Instruction Memorandum


August 27, 2013


In Reply Refer To:
5400 (220) P                                                                                                                                      


Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-176

Expires:  09/30/2014

To:             All Field Office Officials

From:         Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning

Subject:     Seed Collection Policy and Pricing                                                                              

Program Area:  Vegetative Permits and Contracts, Range, Botany, Forestry, Fuels and Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ES&R)

Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) directs the uniform Seed Collection Permitting and Pricing Policy within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 

This IM will establish a framework that standardizes vegetative materials and wildland seed collection procedures and a pricing list while still allowing the States leeway for resource management.  This IM will also establish a process for updating prices charged for permits on a more regular basis and establishes consistencies with neighboring BLM states and offices by utilizing a nationally posted minimum price list for seed.  

Policy/Action:  The current BLM policy for permitting the collection of wildland seed resources is to:

  • Use the BLM planning process to determine land management objectives;
  • Manage to maintain desired ecosystems and to improve the health of the land;
  • Manage to maintain or improve soil, water and air resources;
  • Meet public needs for commodity and non-commodity benefits and uses to the extent possible;
  • Promote the development and availability of native plant materials for use in restoration and revegetation efforts;
  • Manage resources to maintain desired ecosystems and to improve the health of the land;
  • Receive fair market value for the products sold while recognizing the validity of free use on a limited basis;
  • Prevent unauthorized use of public lands and resources; and
  • Meet objectives and goals as outlined in land management and activity level plans and guidance documents.

General Guidelines:  Issuance of a seed collection permit or contract must be in conformance with the current land use plan.  It must also be adequately analyzed through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures prior to issuance, including necessary archeological and Special Status Species clearances.  Mitigation measures, in the form of special permit stipulations, can be attached to any BLM vegetative permit or contract.  These stipulations should address and mitigate any issues identified through the NEPA process.  If issues cannot be mitigated to an acceptable level through stipulations, then the permit or contract should not be issued. 

Management of vegetative materials and wildland seed resources are an important component of ecosystem based resource management.  An effectively managed seed collection program will benefit both the BLM and the public.  These benefits will:  complement other resource programs managed by the BLM; contribute to the economic stability and well being in local communities; aid in restoration projects and programs as well as contribute to partnerships such as the Utah Partners for Conservation and Development, Restore New Mexico and others; resolve some of the conflicts created by commercial and personal use harvesters; and educate the public as to the social and economic value of our natural renewable resources.

The BLM is also involved in a Native Plant Materials Development program which includes Seeds of Success (SOS) and has identified certain areas for the collection of native seed.  Permits may need to be temporarily restricted in areas set aside for this program.  Any necessary restrictions are expected to be short term and temporary.  State office botanists will provide information regarding this program and potential restrictions to affected field offices (FO) prior to the seed collection season to ensure sustainable populations. 

The Western U.S. has experienced recent periods of prolonged drought.  Protection of the vegetative resource is paramount and caution should be used when authorizing seed collection during these periods of vegetation stress.  Verification of good vegetative condition (species vigor, root reserves, viable seed, seed abundance, etc.) will be required prior to seed collection permit issuance.  Generally, Field Botanists or Range Specialists are capable of making this determination, which must be completed prior to permit issuance. 

Seed collection is generally not allowed on recently seeded areas or areas currently in a post-fire rest/recovery period (prescribed or wildfire).  This must be addressed and evaluated on a case-by-case basis in each FO by the appropriate range or vegetation specialist.

Permits for federally-threatened, endangered or candidate species, State-sensitive species, and BLM-sensitive species will not be issued to the general public.  Collection of these species will require special consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and will only be permitted for scientific research or species propagation.  Coordinate these permit requests in consultation with the state office Sensitive Species program leads.

In compliance with the Wilderness Act, no commercial seed harvest or collection will be permitted within designated Wilderness areas; although collection for recreational use is allowed and permits for personal use and free use may be issued.  Collection must be conducted in a non-impairing manner.

Seed collection in Wilderness Study Areas (WSA’s) must adhere to the Interim Management Policy for Lands Under Wilderness Review.  As in designated Wilderness areas, collection for recreational use is allowed and permits for personal use and free use may be issued.  The FOs have discretion in determining whether to issue permits for commercial seed collection within WSA’s taking into consideration the extent, duration, and frequency of such use.  Permits for commercial seed collection within WSA’s must include a stipulation that states the permit is subject to termination in the event that the area is designated as wilderness.

Only hand-powered collection of seed will be permitted unless motorized mechanical harvest is specified in writing within the permit and is in conformance with land use plans.  Motorized, mechanical harvest will only be permitted for specific areas and acreages with an attached map specifying the area.

It is recommended that the authorized officer (AO) and/or the FO person responsible for seed permitting coordinate closely with Rangeland staff, so that if necessary, grazing permittees may be notified of seed collection activity within their allotments. 

Neither seed collection nor vehicle parking will be permitted within the rights-of-ways of Interstate (freeways) or State highways.  This is due to a safety concern by the BLM and the State Department of Highways.

The original permittee signed copy of the stipulations will be maintained with the BLM FO files.  A copy will be attached to the permit and given to the permittee.

Permitting procedures:  There are four options which allow the public to collect vegetative materials such as seed from BLM-administered lands.  These include 1) Recreational use, 2) Personal use, 3) Commercial use, and 4) Free use.  The forms used and fees assessed depend on which option applies to the situation and the intended use of the seed.  These options and appropriate permit forms are defined in more detail in Attachment 1.  Permits should only be authorized by a resource staff specialist who is familiar with the area and vegetative conditions where the seed is to be harvested.

Regulation CFR 5402.0-6(c) specifies the conditions under which a permit for vegetative materials may be issued without advertising; generally it applies in situations where it is impracticable to obtain competition, for instance where the demand for seed or the amounts collected do not warrant competition.  Regulation CFR 5401.0-6(a) states “All sales other that those specified in 5402.0-6 shall be made only after inviting competitive bids through publication and posting.”  If FO experience indicates that there is competitive interest in either 1) specific seed collection areas or, 2) types of seed requested, they are encouraged to advertise locally for competitive sales, for example a sealed bid sale or notify the National Seed Coordinator for inclusion in an upcoming competitive bid.  The FO may need to be prepared to provide enforcement to minimize poaching from seed areas awarded in an advertised sale.

All seed collection activities authorized by issuance of a permit or contract (refer to Attachment 1) will be reported in the Special Forest Products database.  Permits will only be issued by the AO after first obtaining an original permittee signature on the permit and the attached permit stipulations.  [Note:  The AO and permittee can sign several copies of the permit if necessary to accommodate multiple collection parties.  If more than one “original” copy is signed by the AO each “copy” must have the quantity reduced so the combined total equals the total amount permitted to that specific permittee].

Permits will state that they are valid only upon public lands administered by the BLM FO issuing the permit (or on an adjoining FO area where authority has been delegated to the issuing FO for such permits) and only for the area further identified by the legal description and location wording on the permit or by an attached map.

Permits will only be issued in 10 pound increments by species, sub-species or variety based upon an un-cleaned material (“dirt”) weight.

The original permit must be in the possession of all collectors/harvesters working for the permit holder while collecting/harvesting on BLM-administered lands.  The original permit must remain with the harvested/collected material at all times.  Copies of the permit will not be honored or considered valid without an original signature of the permittee and the AO.  This permit must be presented to any law enforcement officer or BLM official upon request. 

Permittees will be encouraged to keep a seed collection log listing materials collected by species and amounts with global positioning system locations taken.  Source identified seed can command higher prices on the market.  Contact the appropriate State Crop Improvement Association if more information is required for source identified seed certification protocols.

Bonding is required for not less than 20 percent of the total product sale value for all sales of $2,500.00 or more.  For sales valued at less than $2,500.00, an appropriate performance bond may be required at the discretion of the AO. 

Suggested Permit Stipulations are given in Attachment 2.  The FO Manager’s may modify, add to, or customize a local list of stipulations.  A list of stipulations determined appropriate by the Field Manager will be attached to, and made a part of, all seed collection permits and contracts.  Contractors that employ non-English speaking workers are required to provide translated versions to workers or have translators on the job site. 

Pricing Policy:  The BLM pricing for collected seed will be standardized within the BLM and will follow the procedures given within Attachment 3.  State Directors have the authority to set the pricing list based upon other prevailing market values.  The policy for forest and vegetative products throughout the BLM is that the state office sets the “Minimum Price List.”  The FO may set a higher price for any product when based on a local market appraisal and supported with appropriate documentation.  Prices have been set at 10 percent the assessed retail market value in collaboration with various Federal, State and Private entities.  Prices are accessible on the BLM intranet ES&R and Regional Seed Warehouse sites and are scheduled for updating prior to collection seasons.  The BLM states will adopt this minimum price list in order to increase consistency among BLM states and offices.  For new species not currently on the price list, a minimum price of $0.10 per pound will be used.  The FO may set a higher price based on local market appraisal.

Timeframe:  This IM is effective upon receipt and will remain in effect until replacement or is rescinded.  Refer to the nationally posted minimum seed price list for updates and changes in price.  

Budget Impacts:  Additional resource management and compliance monitoring may be required.  Management of the vegetative resource is part of our mission and will be completed along with other field duties.  A calculation of the amount of additional work will vary from area to area and will be driven primarily by demand and prevailing markets for seed.

Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  Development of a Manual Supplement or Handbook may become necessary at a future date as other vegetative materials policy needs are addressed. 

Coordination:  This IM has been developed with an interdisciplinary team from five Western States and WO220.  Implementation may develop questions or concerns which should be scheduled for discussion and resolution at an appropriate State Leadership Team meeting or conference call.  Major changes could require a revision of the IM.

Contact:  Paul Krabacher, National Seed Coordinator, Division of Forest, Rangeland, Riparian and Plant Conservation WO220, at (208) 384-3278; or Kathy Radigan, Forestry Program Lead, Division of Forest, Rangeland, Riparian and Plant Conservation WO220, at (202) 912-7433.

Signed by:                                                       Authenticated by:

Edwin L. Roberson                                         Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                           Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning


4 Attachments

      1 – Permitting for Seed Collection Activities (4 pp)

      2 – Suggested Permit Stipulations (1 p)

      3 – BLM Seed Collection Permit Pricing Formula (1 p)

      4 – Spring 2013 Minimum Price List (4 pp)