Interior Dept.’s National Seed Strategy to guide post-disaster rehabilitation, restoration

an unprecedented level of collaboration and commitment to further enhance the nation’s supply and distribution of the right seeds.”

“Our national grasslands and forests are threatened by an ever-increasing occurrence of wildfire and invasive plants, and need to be restored,” said Carlos Rodriguez-Franco, Forest Service Acting Deputy Chief for Research and Development. “Native seeds for wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses are essential to restore lands damaged from wildfire and to restrict advancement of non-native plants to create resilient, adaptive landscapes for wildlife to flourish. This National Seed Strategy will help ensure the success of post wildfire restoration efforts to create native habitat for wildlife. It underscores the value of federal partners working together to be good stewards of the environment on behalf of the American people.”

The strategy involves creating a national network of facilities (federal, tribal, state, local, and private) which would provide seed storage resources. This network would support the Presidential Memorandum on Pollinators and help increase the availability of native seed to a broader user base.

The strategy also calls for the coordinated establishment of a nationwide network of native seed collectors, a network of farmers and growers working to develop seed, a network of nurseries and seed storage facilities to supply adequate quantities of appropriate seed, and a network of restoration ecologists working on the ground. While the use of native seed is encouraged, the strategy does not preclude the use of non-native seed in the instances where it is appropriate.

Sophia Shaw, CEO of Chicago Botanic Garden and chair of the Plant Conservation Alliance Non-Federal Cooperators Committee, said the strategy was a major step forward for restoration and rehabilitation. “The cooperators look forward to helping federal agencies implement the strategy across the country,” Shaw said.

The Seed Strategy does not change or create new policy, but provides a framework for increased collaboration and a common set of goals by using the collective resources of participating agencies. It also aims to provide all land managers — federal, tribal, state, county, and private — the tools they need to address ecological restoration at all levels.

The strategy is also a major action item called for in the Interior Department’s rangeland fire strategy to address the increasing threat of wildfires that damage vital sagebrush landscapes and productive rangelands in the West, especially in the Great Basin states of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah. That strategy outlines the need to aggressively restore fire-impacted landscapes using native seed and local vegetation.

The Conservation Objectives Team (COT) report, prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to guide efforts to conserve the Greater sage-grouse, highlighted the importance of restoring sagebrush ecosystems to healthy native sagebrush plant communities. As invasive annuals like cheatgrass replace native perennial bunch grass communities, the frequency and intensity of rangeland fires increases. For this reason, the COT emphasized that “every effort must be made to retain and restore native plant communities to reduce the risk of fire in the sagebrush ecosystem.”

Interior notes that the strategy, envisioned and initiated by the BLM as collaboration between partners, was developed in concert with many local, state, and federal partners, including the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA). The PCA is an umbrella organization of more than 300 non-federal partners who work together to conserve and restore native plant communities across the United States, including biologists, resources managers, and soil scientists.

The goals and objectives for the strategy were initially created during a Seed Conference held in Washington, D.C., in June 2014. Private seed growers and organizations such as the Western Governors’ Association have also engaged during the development of the strategy.

The twelve federal agencies also engaged in the development of the strategy include the Department of the Interior (BLM, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service); Department of Agriculture (Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Forest Service); Department of Transportation (Federal Highway Administration); the Smithsonian Institution; and the U.S. Botanic Garden.

For more information on the National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration, visit this Web site.