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Groups: Use of Native Plants in NRCS Standards Would Benefit Soil, Water, Wildlife

Native plants can protect soil, water, and air quality while also providing needed habitat for monarch butterflies, upland game birds, pollinators, and many other wildlife species.”

WASHINGTON — More than 85 groups yesterday asked the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to prioritize the use of native plants in the conservation programs they manage. The National Wildlife Federation, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, the Izaak Walton League of America, and the Missouri Prairie Foundation were among the groups that weighed in on the agency’s review of its National Handbook of Conservation Practices.

“We are too frequently missing out on the important benefits native plants provide,” said Aviva Glaser, director of agriculture policy for the National Wildlife Federation. “Native plants can protect soil, water, and air quality while also providing needed habitat for monarch butterflies, upland game birds, pollinators, and many other wildlife species. We encourage USDA to make this switch to prioritizing diverse native plantings in conservation practice standards in order to maximize the resource benefits of our limited conservation dollars.”

USDA soil, water, and forage conservation practices historically often rely on introduced, non-native plants rather than native species. A total of 86 national, state, and local organizations submitted joint comments to USDA arguing that prioritizing the use of native plants would improve water quality and soil health while providing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

“Incorporating native vegetation in USDA conservation practices could be the most important development in restoring bobwhites, other declining grassland birds and pollinators across their ranges,” said National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative Director Don McKenzie. “Such an improved use for public conservation money spent by USDA would be the game changer for many declining wildlife species.”

Studies have shown native plants provide equal or better benefits for soil conservation, water quality, carbon sequestration, ecosystem function, and livestock forage, while also providing excellent habitat for wildlife and pollinators. Increased use of native plants could benefit a wide range of species, including northern bobwhite, lesser prairie-chicken, greater sage-grouse, other upland game birds, songbirds, monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

“The Missouri Prairie Foundation and many other conservation groups and businesses in Missouri are pleased to have the opportunity to support this initiative,” said Carol Davit, Executive Director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation and its Grow Native! program. “Native plants in conservation practices benefit the land and wildlife, benefit the farmer, and the taxpayer.”

“Native plants are adapted to a region’s soil and climate, so they should be easier to maintain and more likely to survive. Using native plants in all USDA conservation programs will help ensure that the conservation practices funded with our tax dollars will deliver on the water quality and other benefits promised,” said Duane Hovorka, Agriculture Program Director, Izaak Walton League of America.

More information: NRCS practice standards – 86 groups encourage native plant use