U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL), vice chair of the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition recently introduced the Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration and Promotion Act to support the botanical science capacity of the federal government.
“Botanical knowledge impacts our lives in more ways than most Americans realize. From combating climate change and enhancing food security to restoring uniquely American native habitats and protecting our engendered species, botany plays a central role in addressing some of our country’s biggest challenges,” said Quigley. “One of our nation’s greatest assets is its biodiversity, which is why we must support the health of these ecosystems, as well as the dedicated scientists that have made our earth’s preservation their life’s work. I am pleased that this bill will support their mission to sustain native and locally adapted plants so that America remains a vibrant, inspiring, and sustainable place to call home.”
“From the silver palmetto to the beach sunflower, South Florida is home to a diverse group of native plants, many that are unique to our tropical climate and growing conditions,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who co-introduced the bill. “Introducing this bill with my colleague, Mike, is a positive step in ensuring the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native species that characterize our communities and nation. We have a responsibility to help maintain a healthy and sound ecosystem that we can all be proud of. I’m glad that this bill will also encourage young people to enter careers in botanical science.”
In the United States, botanical experts help to study, effectively manage, and guide the sustainable use of the nation’s vast plant resources. However, the country is projected to lose nearly half of its botanical expertise in the next decade as experienced scientists retire and are not replaced, leading to myriad direct and indirect costs both in dollars and in the loss of critical cultural native landscapes. The Bureau of Land Management, which employs just over one botanist per four million acres managed, and the U.S. Geological Survey have already reported a deficiency in botanical capacity. At the same time, advanced degrees in botany have decreased by 41 percent in the last decade.
The Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration and Promotion Act aims to increase the botanical science capacity of the federal government. It allows federal agencies to act with the expertise required to preserve unique American landscapes and emphasizes the importance of protecting native plants and plant ecosystems.
Additionally, the bill:
- Creates a new program of botanical science research within the Department of the Interior to help increase federal botanic expertise and allows DOI to hire new, additional personnel
- Creates a student loan repayment program for botanical scientists to encourage more students to make the decision to enter the field and to support them once they’ve graduated
- Declares a federal policy that the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Defense preference the use of locally adapted native plant materials in their land management activities
- Requires states to utilize native plant species where possible and practical
- Establishes a new program to support collaborative grants to prevent rare plant species from becoming endangered and to remediate already endangered populations