RALEIGH — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking public comments through May 20 on a major revision to the 2015 Wildlife Action Plan that will add plants to the list of North Carolina’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The addendum documents and comment portal are available online: https://www.research.net/r/WAP22.
Addendum 2 to the Plan will add plant SGCN as a component of the state’s natural communities, add a new natural community description for Piedmont and Coastal Plain Oak Forests, and provide habitat associations between plant SGCN and the natural communities described in the Plan.
The addendum is in preparation for the anticipated passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, proposed federal legislation with wide bi-partisan support, which will include provisions for plant conservation. As currently proposed, RAWA will provide a new source of federal matching grant funds to states that include plants as SGCN in their Wildlife Action Plans. The Wildlife Commission will join 15 other state wildlife agencies that already include plants in their Wildlife Action Plans.
“Conservation is critical to preserve genetic diversity and seed sources, especially for rare plants limited to small, isolated or fragmented populations,” said Cindy Simpson, the Wildlife Commission’s Wildlife Action Plan coordinator. “In comparison to wildlife species that are able to move across the landscape, plants are at greater risk to direct impacts from threats because they are rooted within their landscape position.”
The Wildlife Commission developed Addendum 2 through collaboration with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Plant Conservation Program and the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Natural Heritage Program.
“Plant species represent a very large proportion of our state’s total biodiversity,” said Lesley Starke, program administrator for the NC Plant Conservation Program at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Adding plants into the Wildlife Action Plan will expand the scope and impact of this conservation strategy. By identifying conservation needs and enacting conservation programs earlier for at-risk species, we hope to reduce the need to list species.”
“Adding plants to the list of SGCN will help promote wider recognition of the role of native plants in wildlife habitats and will help increase federal funding for plant conservation in North Carolina,” said Misty Buchanan, deputy director for Natural Heritage Program. “This habitat-based approach will benefit native plants, wildlife, and the habitat that supports them.”
The N.C. Plant Conservation Program manages plant conservation in the state, including adopting a state list of protected plant species, adopting and enforcing regulations that protect, conserve and enhance those listed species, and developing conservation programs for the benefit of listed species. The Plant Conservation Program is also responsible for managing more than 14,500 acres of conservation preserve properties across the state which provide critical conservation for listed plant species in North Carolina.
The N.C. Natural Heritage Program maintains a statewide inventory of native plant species that are rare, in decline, believed to have been extirpated or presumed extinct. The Natural Heritage Program works with the Plant Conservation Program to maintain inventory information on plant species that are listed as Endangered, Threatened, Special Concern or Significantly Rare. The inventory is maintained with current data and an updated Rare Plant List is published every two years.