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Plant Conservation Program

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 Bureau of Land Management 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 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.

In August 2015, the BLM unveiled the National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration. Working with non-federal partners and 11 other agencies, the Strategy will provide a more coordinated approach to restoring plant communities.

Native Plant Materials Development Process

The BLM is the largest native seed buyer in the Western Hemisphere. In 1999, the BLM's purchase of 6.5 million pounds of seed was 70% non-native. Since the establishment of the Native Plant Materials Development Program, the tide has turned and the BLM now uses more natives than not. From 2004-2013 the BLM purchased more than 15 million pounds of native seed and about 10.8 million pounds of non-native seed. One of the issues affecting the BLM's purchase of seed for fire rehabilitation, reclamation, and restoration projects is that seed for the desired native species is not always available in the quantity and quality needed. The Native Plant Materials Development Program’s mission is to increase the quality and quantity of native plant materials available for restoring and supporting resilient ecosystems. The BLM works with a variety of partners, including Federal, local government, non-profit, and private, to accomplish the steps of the native plant materials development process.


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

Seeds of Success (SOS) is the national native seed collection program, led by the BLM in partnership with a variety of federal agencies and non-federal organizations. As the first step of the Native Plant Materials Development Program (NPMDP), SOS’s mission is to collect wildland native seed for research, development, germplasm conservation, and ecosystem restoration.

SOS was established in 2001 by the BLM in partnership with the Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSB) to collect, conserve, and develop native plant materials for restoration across the United States. The initial partnership between the BLM and MSB quickly grew to include many additional partners, such as botanic gardens, arboreta, zoos, and municipalities. These SOS teams share a common protocol to coordinate seed collecting and species targeting efforts.

To date, SOS has over 14,800 native seed collections in its National Collection. This material is used for restoration projects, native plant materials development projects such as germination trials, common garden studies, and protocol establishment. Portions of each collection are also 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:


Case Study: Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Produce Native Plant Materials for the BLM in Idaho

hands planting seedlingThe BLM is working with two Native American tribes in Idaho to help meet a critical need for native plant seedlings in the State. The program also provides hands on training and education to high school students. Through a multiyear partnership between BLM and the Shoshone-Bannock and the Shoshone-Paiute tribes in Idaho, these Native American students are working with adults to provide native-plants for fire-restoration and fire-rehabilitation projects on public lands. 

Idaho BLM and the tribes have built two greenhouses where participants grow the native seedlings. The greenhouses are located near schools which makes it convenient for students to play an active role in greenhouse management and production. These greenhouses have helped meet a growing need for plant restoration materials in Idaho.

In 2007 and 2008, the Shoshone-Bannock tribe planted and grew 40,000 sagebrush seedlings, and the Shoshone-Paiute tribe grew 60,000 bitterbrush and sagebrush seedlings. BLM’s Idaho Falls and Twin Falls Districts purchased all of the seedlings for use in fire rehabilitation during March 2008 and in November, BLM purchased an additional 10,000 seedlings raised by Duck Valley FFA members and Owyhee Combined School horticulture students.

The Shoshone-Paiute Tribes have reached out to other federal partners to assist them in expanding opportunities for native plant production. Forest Service employees at the Boise National Forest’s Lucky Peak Nursery have been working with the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes to raise native plant seedlings in greenhouses. The Natural Resource Conservation Service also has provided technical expertise.

The partnership fulfills BLM’s mandate to use native plant materials in rehabilitation projects and provides an excellent hands-on classroom for Shoshone-Paiute students, who have learned how to grow and manage a large crop of seeds with important ramifications for the future of Idaho’s public lands. Idaho BLM hopes to continue to work cooperatively with both tribes to enhance the availability of native-plant material for use on public lands in future years. 












seedlings in greenhouse













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.”