Georgia’s Plant Conservation Alliance earns national recognition for stewardship

By David Pendered

Georgia’s efforts to protect endangered plants has been recognized by a national organization, which comes as good news at a time the state is implementing its latest five-year plan to protect plants and animals.

Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, prarie area

Members of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance work in the prairie area of the State Botanical Garden in 2013. Credit: onlineathens.com

The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance was recognized by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies in an event Wednesday in Philadelphia.

The association presented a special recognition award to the alliance for its 21 years of providing “outstanding contributions” to the association and to advancing professional fish and wildlife management in North America, according to a statement issued by the Department of Natural Resources.

The alliance is a network of more than 40 public gardens, agencies, schools, companies, and conservation organization that are committed to preserving Georgia’s threatened plants. The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta History Center, and Chattahoochee Nature Center are among the local organizations active with the association.

“GPCA has proven incredibly effective in focusing and increasing efforts to conserve Georgia’s rare plant species and their habitats,” DNR Commissioner Mark Williams said in a statement. “Not only is this work benefiting our state, other states are considering setting up alliances, meaning plant conservation in those states will reap from what the GPCA has sown in Georgia.”

The alliance identifies and oversees efforts to protect natural habitats and endangered plant species statewide. Recovery projects target 100 imperiled species, ranging from swamp pink to whorled sunflowers.

Members of the alliance helped devise the State Wildlife Action Plan, which guides Georgia’s efforts to conserve plants and animals.

Georgia aster

The Georgia aster occurs in only about 34 counties in Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas, and is one of the plants cared for the by Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. Credit: gnps.org

This is how the statewide plan describes the conservation alliance:

  • “The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance member organizations coordinate a rare plant safeguarding program that focuses on conservation of the genetic diversity of rare plant populations and augmentation or restoration of these rare plants in appropriate natural habitats.
  • “Rare plant propagation projects are prioritized by the conservation status and needs of species and are linked to habitat restoration or enhancement efforts in the field. This group has been highly successful in restoring or reintroducing populations of globally imperiled species in many conservation sites across the state.”

DNR had to cobble together multiple funding streams to include plants in the statewide action plan, according to the document.

The action plan was funded with a grant that did not extend to cover conservation efforts for plants, according to the plan. However, DNR was able to include plants in the document by using funds from a federal grant to the Wildlife Resources Division, with matching funds provided by the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund, according to the plan.

Here are some highlights of the alliance, as noted by DNR:

  • “Members are key to a Candidate Conservation Agreement that is helping conserve the rare wildflower Georgia aster, and helped keep it off the federal endangered species list;
  • “The network has developed and honed the concept and practice of safeguarding, used to prevent local extinctions of rare-plant populations. Eleven institutions hold and manage ex-situ collections for recovery and study;
  • “From 2011 through 2016, member institutions led more than 300 presentations, staffed 339 classes and trips, and wrote or were involved in 134 articles regarding plant conservation.
  • “The benefit of establishing GPCA-like groups in the region will be central to the Southeastern Partners in Plant Conservation Symposium, set for Nov. 1-3 at Atlanta Botanical Garden.”

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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