The Right Seed in the Right Place at the Right Time: Working Together on the National Seed Strategy
The National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration provides a framework for agencies and organizations working to improve the supply of native seed, and contains dozens of action items organized within four major goals:
- Identify seed needs, and ensure the reliable availability of genetically appropriate seed
- Identify research needs and conduct research to provide genetically appropriate seed and to improve technology for native seed production and ecosystem restoration
- Develop tools the enable managers to make timely, informed seeding decisions for ecological restoration
- Develop strategies for internal and external communication
Implementing the Strategy requires collaboration among a broad coalition of partners, from the smallest non-profit to the largest agencies. At the 2017 National Native Seed Conference, a series of task forces was launched to bring expert stakeholders together and provide a platform for coordinated efforts to implement the actions of the Strategy. Task Forces are temporary teams that are organized to accomplish a specific task over a 6-18 month period. Members come from a diversity of backgrounds and organizations, and are united in working together to solve a particular problem and advance the goals of the Strategy. If you are interested in joining a Task Force, get in touch.
2017 National Seed Strategy Task Forces
POLICY & FUNDING
Before the Storm – The Need for Seed as a Component of Emergency Preparedness
This Task Force will build off of Tuesday’s Emergency Preparedness symposium. It will discuss the need for native seed to ensure resilient native plant communities in response to increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events resulting from a changing climate. Strategizing ways to incorporate ecological restoration as an adaptation mechanism and insurance policy in response to wildfires, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events will be an objective of this Task Force.
USDA Programs for Native Plants
Throughout the United States, USDA programs have traditionally relied on introduced plant material for vegetation projects. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Reserve Program alone are responsible for an estimated 2.0 million acres annually, with a majority of that planted to non-native, introduced, or exotic species. But there are opportunities to create more support for research and development of native plant materials. In the eastern United States, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) is leading an effort for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a native vegetation standard which specifies that native vegetation be considered first in all technical or financial assistance and the cost-share assistance be eliminated for all aggressive species. The National Institute for Food and Agriculture makes grants related to plant health and natural resources that could be used to promote the use of native plants. This Task Force will explore opportunities to utilize USDA programs to fund native plant research and development for ecological restoration and rehabilitation.
Identification of Existing Federal Seed and Restoration Policies and Guidance
Also known as Action 1.1.3 in the National Seed Strategy, this Task Force will help ensure that all Federal policies related to the development and use of plant materials and restoration are identified. Once identified, compatibilities, gaps, and challenges across Federal agencies can be addressed. Additionally, outputs can be used to inform Action 4.2.3, which is to make existing agency plant material policy available to the public.
RESEARCH & TOOLS
Coordinating Soil-Related Activities under the National Seed Strategy
The National Seed Strategy identifies needs for soil-related research and decision tools. These include degradation assessments, amendments and site preparation, soil water assessments, and soil factors related to seed germination and establishment. This Task Force will prompt discussions of how to coordinate and promote these efforts for reporting and sharing under the Strategy. We will identify key organizational contacts, researchers and available research, and establish further communications to advance these parts of the Strategy
Seeing is Believing: Demonstration Sites for Native Plants
Also known as Action 3.1.2 in the National Seed Strategy, this Task Force will plan, implement, and help publicize native plant demonstration sites in different ecoregions across the United States. Demonstration sites will show how to restore habitat with native seed and plant materials.
Selecting the Right Seed for the Right Place Right Now
As National Seed Strategy partners collaborate to improve the availability of genetically appropriate seed materials for restoration, what advice can we provide to land managers RIGHT NOW to help them make the best decisions given what is currently available. This Task Force will work together to develop basic guidance and communication for land managers who may not yet be accustomed to taking native species into account.
Tools for Seed Collectors
Seed collection is the first step of native plant materials development. It is also conducted by a wide range of individuals across multiple agencies (Federal, state, tribal, and local), nongovernmental organizations, private sector industries, and universities. This Task Force will build off of Monday’s Native Seed symposium and focus on successes and challenges faced when designing and implementing effective seed collection.
Training Tools for Practitioners, Producers, and Stakeholders on the Use of Native Seed
Training programs should be utilized to promote and strengthen professional standards in all activities devoted to the use of native seed and ecological restoration. This Task Force will focus on Action 3.1.1. in the National Seed Strategy and identify gaps between training courses offered and training needed to increase the understanding of restoration principles and the use of native seed across multiple agencies (Federal, state, tribal, and local), nongovernmental organizations, private sector industries, and universities.
Communicating the National Seed Strategy
The aim of the National Seed Strategy is to help land managers select and obtain appropriate plant materials to use in public and private ecological restoration efforts by developing a coordinated, nationwide network of native seed collectors, farmers, growers, nurseries, storage facilities, and restoration ecologists. Communication and information sharing with the public, among strategy partners, and with land managers are integral to these aims. This Task Force will discuss various deliverables of the Strategy and provide recommendations on mechanisms and opportunities for communicating and disseminating information in a coordinated way.
Native Plants Support Native Wildlife
Plant species are the foundation of habitat and ecosystems – when we say that wildlife species are declining due to a loss of habitat, this means that the loss of native plant diversity is central to the problem. However, wildlife species tend to be much more charismatic than plants and get much more support and attention. This Task Force will strategize ways to utilize momentum behind wildlife species to support the use and development of native plant materials in habitat management decisions.
Public/Private Partnerships in Native Seed Development
This Task Force will build off of Wednesday’s Seed Industry symposium. Federal, state, and private land managers often work directly with private seed growers to develop genetically appropriate native seeds into commercially available plant materials for restoration projects. This Task Force will bring together public and private sector land managers with private sector seed growers to learn how to improve seed development partnerships that can serve all parties’ needs.