Letter to the U.S. Congress on Plant Conservation Legislation
Dear Representatives Quigley and Ros-Lehtinen,
We would like to express our strong support for your proposed “Plant Conservation Legislation” (H.R. 1054) and thank you for your efforts to compose and promote it.
Plant biodiversity is the keystone to healthy ecosystems. Degradation of plant diversity compromises basic ecosystem function, including soil quality and stability, water quality, coastline stability, carbon fixing capacity, and the ability to resist biological invasions. Plant biodiversity maintains the biodiversity of other organisms, including valuable pollinators upon which many wild and domesticated fruit-bearing plants depend, it sustains rich wildlife and fisheries for sportsmen and -women, and it contributes to the natural beauty that enriches us. It is not a luxury, but a necessity, to maintain the basic function of our watersheds and ecosystems through the preservation of plant biodiversity.
Maintaining a force of scientists with botanical expertise is necessary for the effective monitoring and maintenance of biodiversity. We support your initiative to promote the training of botanical researchers and to employ them in the critical services of maintaining and restoring biodiversity. Thank you for your efforts.
Dr. Kathleen Donohue
President, American Society of Naturalists
Dr. Sally Otto
President, Society for the Study of Evolution
Plant Conservation Legislation Introduced
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to support the botanical research capacity of the federal government. H.R. 1054 is sponsored by Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
The bill emphasizes the importance of protecting native plants and addresses botanical workforce issues. It would create a new program of botanical science research within the Department of the Interior to help increase federal botanic expertise and would allow Interior to hire additional botanical personnel. The bill would create a student loan repayment program for botanists. It would also create a preference for federal agencies to use locally-adapted native plant materials in their land management activities.
“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,” said Quigley in statement. “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.”
“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,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “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.”
The U.S. is projected to lose roughly half of its botanical experts in the next decade due to retirements. Some federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Land Management, have already reported a deficiency in their botanical workforce. Meanwhile, fewer advanced degrees in botany are being awarded.