Interior Department sets seed strategy to restore damaged land

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2015-The Interior Department released a National Seed Strategy to restore wildlife landscapes, especially for land damaged by rangeland fires, as well as invasive species, severe storms and drought.

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The strategy, developed in partnership with the Plant Conservation Alliance and USDA, emphasizes the importance of planting appropriate seeds to help grow plant life and pollinator habitat.

“Having the right seed in the right place at the right time makes a major difference in the health of our landscapes,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “This is a collaborative effort to ensure that we're taking a landscape level approach to supporting lands that are more resilient to drought, intense fires and invasive species.”

American Seed Trade Association Chair Risa DeMasi said the strategy is focused on research in identifying appropriate, regionally adapted species, and developing protocols “that can successfully restore the thousands of acres of land impacted by wildfires,” particularly in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California.

“ASTA members want to ensure the seeds that government and private land managers need are available when disaster strikes,” added DeMasi in a statement.

The Interior Department noted that in 2012, more than two million acres of sagebrush habitat burned in four western states; and in the eastern U.S., Hurricane Sandy caused widespread damage to native plant habitats.

“A chronic shortage of native seed for restoration purposes left those landscapes vulnerable to hostile species and erosion, while undermining their ability to build up resilience, support wildlife and economic activity,” the department said in a press release.

The National Seed Strategy outlines coordinated research, as well as improvements in seed production and restoration technology to increase the availability of genetically appropriate seed.

“Large, disturbed areas must be replanted quickly to avoid severe erosion or colonization by non-native invasive plants,” said Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Deputy Director Steve Ellis. “In many cases, it has been difficult to obtain and deliver adequate quantities of the appropriate seed to meet a region's particular need.”

Ellis said the plan calls for “an unprecedented level of collaboration and commitment to further enhance the nation's supply and distribution of the right seeds.”

The 12 federal agencies 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.

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