Botany and Rare Plants Program
Much of the Pacific Southwestern Region of the U.S. Forest Service is found within the California Floristic Province, unique for its Mediterranean climate of dry, hot summers and wet or snowy winters with high levels of plant endemism. Many plant species of the California’s are found here and nowhere else in the world. From serpentine outcrops to sagebrush steppes to chaparral to squishy mountain fens, California's native plants are spectacular!
Throughout its history, the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region’s Botany and Rare Plants Program has relied on botanical skills and expertise to provide the public many benefits from the 18 national forests in California. Botany is a key discipline that contributes broadly to ecosystem conservation, protection, and management by providing a sound scientific approach to the conservation of plant biodiversity.
Scope and Complexity
The forest programs range in scope and complexity. A primary focus is on evaluating forest projects, conducting surveys and effects analyses for projects on the forests for threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant species and their habitats. Forest work differs because of the over 500 rare plant species found on the forests and the various authorities (laws, regulations and policies). This results in various analyses, consultations, and coordination needed for activities on the forests. All forests conduct environmental review analyses for their work. For example, the Northern Province forests include Northwest Forest Plan Survey and Manage analysis work as well. The Sierra Cascades and Sierra forests have special authorities which include Northwest Forest Plan, QLG, SNPLMA, SNF, etc. They are working to meet analysis requirements and other obligations. The Southern California forests, in general, have more plant species listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) resulting in a higher consultation workload. Lastly, threats to the lands differ throughout. All forests seem to see some effects relating to special uses such as energy, transportation, and water. Others see more or less use relating to proximity to large populations areas resulting in high recreational use for example. Every national forest in California is different and has a unique flavor.
The Pacific Southwest Region forest leadership and botany cadre are awesome—all with varying degrees of experience with the agency, on-the-ground knowledge, and varying levels of educational expertise.
We have the 30 year club, botanists who started in the 1980s and saw the botany program develop and grow in infancy stages the Forest Service. We have the 20 year club, botanists who started work in the 1990s and are expert in the flora, rare plants, and can navigate around the forests very easily. We have the 10 year club, botanists who started work in the 2000s and saw the botany program grow and take a more active approach to incorporate the growing fields of invasive species science and restoration biology. We have the newbies, botanists who bring a fresh perspective and scientific viewpoint right out of college. And last but not least, we have seasonal staff who bring new energy and dedicate their summer months to come and work for the Forest Service.