Southeast Environmental Research Program, Florida International University
Center for Plant Conservation

An Action Plan to Conserve the Native Plants of Florida


Recommendation Three: Provisions of existing federal, state, and local laws pertaining to rare plants and habitats should be maintained and enhanced and, preferentially, made collectively more coherent. Public funding for plant and habitat conservation should be increased.

Existing federal, state, and local laws involving conservation and/or recovery of plant taxa vulnerable to extinction or extirpation have many weaknesses, some of which have been discussed above. Since the federal Endangered Species Act is the corner stone law and model, improving environmental legislation at all levels must begin with maintaining or even strengthening the Act. Indeed, plant species should be afforded the same level of protection as animal species, so that the "taking" of rare plants on nonfederal lands and the destruction of "critical habitat" of rare plants can be more appropriately regulated. Similarly, the criteria for listing in the original version of the Act, based solely on biological considerations, should be restored; subsequent amendments to include consideration of economic factors have very substantially weakened the list listing process as it now stands. While provisions for initiation of the listing procedure by private petition are available, the establishment of an impartial nongovernmental panel of experts to participate in the listing process (comparable to the role of the state's Endangered Plant Advisory Council) might expedite the process and reduce some of the recent pressures that have been applied to the Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, and associated political appointees. State laws should be similarly rationalized to provide protection for the habitat of state-listed endangered and threatened species, and to aid the recovery of rare plants. State legislation should be enacted to address, minimally, the following four items:

  1. State agencies that manage the majority of state conservation areas, such as the Division of Recreation and Parks (in the Department of Environmental Protection) and the Division of Forestry (in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services), should formulate statewide plans and policies to enhance the survivorship of state-listed plant species;
  2. State agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, should be required to produce listed-species impact statements prior to implementation of projects and to provide for mitigation. Where feasible and practical, state agencies should use a significant proportion of native plants in their landscaping;
  3. All state agencies should directly or indirectly work to conserve state-listed species and use their authorities to further the well-being of native plants and their habitats (as must federal agencies under the Endangered Species Act);
  4. Non-indigenous plant species listed as invasive by the Exotic Plant Pest Council should be prohibited from use on public lands and in commercial trade or transport within the state.

Changes to legislation at all levels must occur within the widest possible context of information availability and public debate.

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