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For Immediate Release, September 18, 2007

Contact: Emily B. Roberson, Center for Biological Diversity
Native Plant Conservation Campaign, (415) 970-0394

Plant Science and Conservation Groups Ask Congress to Add Plants to Legislation Protecting Wildlife From Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today the Native Plant Conservation Campaign, Ecological Society of America, Botanical Society of America, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and the American Society for Horticultural Science sent a letter asking Congressional leaders to add provisions to protect plants to new legislation designed to help wildlife survive threats from global climate change.

The Native Plant Conservation Campaign is a program of the Center for Biological Diversity. The campaign is a network of 38 native-plant societies, botanical gardens, and other plant science and conservation organizations representing more than 80,000 individual plant scientists and enthusiasts nationwide.

The request addresses the Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act, a section of the Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act. The legislation passed the House this summer and may soon be considered by the Senate. The Act contains groundbreaking provisions that would direct federal agencies to develop strategies to assist wildlife affected by global warming. But it does not allow the agencies to develop strategies for the thousands of plants also at risk from climate change.

“While we applaud this step forward in addressing the impacts of climate change on wildlife, the most effective conservation strategies must be designed at the ecosystem level — to include plants, wildlife, and their habitats,” said Dr. Norman Christensen, president of the Ecological Society of America. “Because of complex interactions among species, it is imperative to employ protection for plants as well as wildlife to ensure the health of ecosystems and their resilience to climate change.”

“Plants are the foundation of life on this planet, and critical to human welfare,” said Dr. Emily Roberson, director of the Native Plant Conservation Campaign. “Through photosynthesis, plants generate the oxygen we breathe and create the fuel for life. Their roots help clean the water we drink, and they supply foods, fibers, medicines and countless other products and commodities we depend on for survival, jobs, and economic security.”

"Horticulturalists value native plants, not only for their aesthetic value in the landscape, but for their present and potential contributions as medicinal plants and new crops. In addition, native plants worldwide are an important source of genetic diversity for breeders of both ornamental and crop plants," said Dr. Mary Peet, president of the American Society of Horticultural Science.

Scientists are already identifying numerous plants that may be lost to climate change. These include delicate mountain wildflowers like the deep-yellow snow buttercup and bright blue sky pilot as well as alpine forest types like spruce/fir in New England — all of which may disappear completely as mountaintops warm. Coastal plants are also at risk as sea levels rise. Some mangrove forests, for example, may be wiped out, causing serious problems in areas like Florida where mangroves have protected coasts from hurricanes and floods and created habitat essential to multi-billion dollar fisheries and other industries.

The omission of plants from the Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act is part of a broader trend. Plants are often treated as “second-class conservation citizens” in the United States; funding and legal requirements for their conservation are substantially lower than for animal species. Nearly 60 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act are plants, but less than three percent of federal endangered species funding goes to plants.

One example is the federally funded Wildlife Action Plan program, which provides money for state species and habitat conservation projects. More than $400 million was disbursed by the program between 2001 and 2006, but not a dollar went to plants since federal law explicitly prohibits states from using Wildlife Action Plan funds for plant conservation (unless such conservation comes as a byproduct of "wildlife" conservation projects).

“No scientific evidence supports the contention that meaningful conservation of wildlife or habitats can be accomplished in the absence of vigorous plant conservation,” said Roberson. “If it is to achieve its goals, this landmark energy legislation, like all conservation laws and policies, must provide equal protection for the plant kingdom.


Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum * Arizona Native Plant Society * Arkansas Native Plant Society * Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) * California Native Plant Society * California Oak Foundation * Colorado Native Plant Society * Florida Native Plant Society * Grand Prairie Friends of Illinois * Herb Society of America * Idaho Native Plant Society * Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society * Iowa Native Plant Society * Kansas Native Plant Society * Kauai Native Plant Society * Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center * Maryland Native Plant Society * Minnesota Native Plant Society * Missouri Native Plant Society * Montana Native Plant Society * Native Plant Society of New Jersey * Native Plant Society of New Mexico * Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio * Native Plant Society of Oregon * Native Plant Society of Texas* Native Prairies Association of Texas * New England Wild Flower Society (NH, CT, RI, MA, ME, VT) * New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council * North Carolina Botanical Garden * North Carolina Wild Flower Preservation Society * Oklahoma Native Plant Society * South Carolina Native Plant Society * Ticonderoga Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, VA * Utah Native Plant Society * Virginia Native Plant Society * Washington Native Plant Society * West Virginia Native Plant Society * Wyoming Native Plant Society

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