Washington, D.C. – In a bipartisan effort to preserve biodiversity and reap the numerous benefits local flora provide to wildlife, human health, and the environment, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced legislation to promote the use of native plants. The Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act would create a new pilot program at the National Park Service to support the use of native plants, and would direct the Park Service to review existing data and study the cost-effectiveness of using native plants. U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08), Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Bennie Thompson (D-MS-02), and Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Maine’s greatest treasure is it natural beauty and cultural history, attracting millions of visitors each year,” said Senator Collins. “The Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act would encourage the National Park Service to protect native plants such as blueberry barrens, white pines, and wildflowers, as well as prevent the future spread of invasive species across the State of Maine.”
“Native plants play a vital role in protecting our shared public lands. Bringing more native plants back will help us combat invasive species, provide food and shelter for local wildlife, and adapt to the looming threat of climate change,” said Senator Cantwell.
“Democrats and Republicans agree that America’s public lands and parks are treasures worth protecting. Promoting the native plants and ecosystems in places like Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area would ensure we can explore and enjoy them today and in the future,” said Congressman Cartwright.
“As Co-Chair of the House Invasive Species Caucus, I am proud to help reintroduce this legislation to combat the spread of invasive species and protect native plants within our diverse North Country ecosystems. Protecting native species is critical to maintaining our natural landscapes, and this legislation will help preserve them for generations to come,” said Congresswoman Stefanik.
"There are few things more scenic than the unaltered American landscape, and the Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act will help ensure that our country’s public lands more closely resemble their natural states," said Mark Falzone, President of Scenic America. "We applaud Senator Collins and Senator Cantwell for their vision and leadership on a bill that will help to preserve and enhance ‘America the Beautiful.’"
“Friends of Acadia is grateful to Senator Collins for reintroducing the Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act,” said David MacDonald, President of Friends of Acadia. “Restoring habitats with native plants is critical to ensuring that national parks remain vital landscapes in the face of climate change. We have a long partnership with Acadia National Park to fund the removal of invasive plants here, and we’re pleased that this bill will bolster support for native species.”
“Promoting the use of native plants and restoring their habitat is vital to preserving biodiversity” said Debbie Edwards, President of The Garden Club of America. “Legislation being championed by Senators Collins and Cantwell will make a major and substantive contribution to the critical role of native plants. They combat climate change, conserve water, and benefit wildlife, and they make the communities where we live, work, and play healthier places. "
“The bill brings a common sense approach to the planting of our public lands while teaching visitors about our natural heritage. The resulting benefits include the creation of habitat for wildlife and the conservation of native plant species that offer a wealth of ecological services,” said Carol Capobianco, Director, The Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College. “In addition, native plants provide a geographic sense of place throughout the country, from the maples of the Northeast to the palms of the coastal South, the cacti of the arid Southwest, and the redwoods of the West. Native flora define our diverse regions.”
Some of the myriad advantages of native plants include:
· Requiring fewer pesticides and fertilizers;
· Requiring less water and maintenance since they have adapted to local weather conditions;
· Providing shelter and food for local wildlife; and
· Preventing disruption to native wildlife and larger ecosystems.
In order to maintain these benefits, native plants need help to confront threats such as non-native pests, non-native plants, diseases, and a changing climate. Of the 20,000 known native plant species in North America, it has been estimated that approximately 30 percent are at risk of extinction as a result of factors such as habitat loss, invasive species, temperature shifts, and pesticide use.
Click HERE to read the full text of the bill.