As described in our plant conservation model (Figure 2), plant conservation in Florida occurs within at least five separate functions and through the general support of the public at large. Even the most comprehensive resource management institutions in Florida are incapable of carrying out more than a few of the specialized functions effectively. Moreover, most species and habitats cross ownership boundaries, complicating the conservation efforts of single entities, all of which have distinct institutional cultures, management mandates, and conservation methodologies. For these reasons, successful plant conservation requires cooperation among a diverse group of specialists and land managers.
Except in rare instances, cross-agency and cross-functional collaboration have been left to develop on ad hoc bases in Florida. Better organization is needed to coordinate the diverse activities and points-of-view of the many plant conservation players. Organizational emphasis should be placed initially at the local level where parties representing different positions nevertheless share a common concern for the plant resource. The Greater Arbuckle and the Wekiva River Basin working groups might represent models for such organizations, though the form that cooperation might take can vary depending on local situations. Well-organized local groups can facilitate the flow of information, help enormously in generating consensus, and thus ease decision making among resource managers who may or may not be local people. Indeed, novel and in innovative collaborative efforts are more likely at this level, and such groups can become very effective in widening the base of support for natural areas and rare plants within their regions.
There is also a fundamental need for leadership at the state level on the larger, conceptual, plant conservation issues. Whereas EPAC and EPPC provide direction on rare plant listings and exotic plant problems, respectively, there is not a single group within the plant conservation community that brings a non-partisan, expert, plant advocacy voice to issues such as land acquisition priorities, plant collection and reintroduction protocols, impacts of potential legislation on native plants, park management policies, or the structure and content of environmental education efforts. Formation of a Florida Native Plant Council is therefore recommended as the mechanism to provide direction on these and other issues relevant to native plants in the state, as well as to explore ways to implement the recommendations outlined above. The Council would consist of 20 to 30 members: native plant researchers, managers, and advocates, representing a broad range of institutions, disciplines, and geographic regions. Agencies, in institutions, and groups that should be invited to participate include the following:
National Park Service National Biological Service U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service U. S. Forest Service Department of Defense Native American Tribes Florida Department of Environmental Protection Florida Division of Forestry Florida Department of Plant Industry Florida Fish and Game Commission State Water Management Districts County governments Primary and secondary public schools Florida Natural Areas Inventory The Nature Conservancy Florida Native Plant Society National Audubon Society Native plant nurseries Exotic Pest Plant Council Endangered Plant Advisory Council CPC Florida Participating Institutions Universities Other research institutions
In order for the Florida Native Plant Council to be most effective, a source of funding must be identified to support its activities. The Council would meet annually. Individual members could meet more frequently in smaller working groups to address specific or pressing issues.
The need for enhanced communication and interaction among the diverse participants and supporters of Florida plant conservation is a theme that has been repeated throughout this document. Researchers, managers, advocates, and educators must develop more opportunities to share experiences, points-of-view, and news. The convening of an annual meeting of native plant conservationists is therefore recommended. We might call this the Interdisciplinary Conference on Management of Florida Native Plants. This conference might be arranged to coincide in time and place with the an annual convention of the Florida Native Plant Society, the Florida Native Plant Council, or some similar gathering. The objectives of such a conference might be the presentation of research results or management findings regarding rare native plants of Florida, debate on the implications of management alternatives, or exposure of primary and secondary school teachers and others to up-to-date information on Florida native plant issues. By orienting the conference to the exploration of interfaces among research, management, advocacy, and education, we can achieve these objectives and more.
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