As an endangered plant biologist with a state agency, I have been watching the growth of the CPC consortium for two decades. The majority of my experience has been with staff and programs of the Chicago Botanical Garden. Their mission is wider than ex situ propagation. Our program has turned informally to colleagues in member institutions for guidance in locating experts, information on species taxonomy, and climate change modeling. The Chicago Garden's annual symposia are one of the best opportunities for plant conservation professionals to gain exposure to the work of colleagues and new issues in plant conservation. However, CPC is not the only organization that addresses rare plant conservation. We have been lucky in the level of dialogue we've established with the Chicago Botanical Garden. As an outside professional reviewer, my greatest concern is that recognition of the complementary role of other NGOs and agencies by CPC affiliates appears to be a bit erratic.
I have interacted with The Center for Plant Conservation on personal and professional levels. I work for the USDA Forest Service and CPC cooperates with our botanists to conserve significant botanical resources and to maintain diversity of these resources. The folks at CPC have always been willing to think outside the box to find ways to help both my agency and the resources.
For 14 years i worked as the CPC liason at Desert Botanical Garden. My primary goal was to build a conservation seedbank of rare and common desert species for recovery and restoration purposes. CPC supported my efforts financially and professionally with grant money and plenty of advice. Under the leadership of Carolyn O'Malley, Director of Desert Botanical Garden, my efforts were enthusiastically encouraged and supported. When, under new directorship, my position was included in the Reseearch Department under new direction, new rules were put into place at DES, limiting my CPC activity. This caused a major life change for me, resulting in a change of profession. I am now a botany teacher at a community college, but will always appreciate the time i spent working toward plant conservation with CPC.
The Center for Plant Conservation stands in a class of its own when it comes to preserving native plant diversity in the US. Since its inception, the Center has been a consistent -- and sometimes the only -- voice on the side of plant diversity. By combining the assets of existing institutions, such as botanic gardens and arboreta, with those of land managers, CPC provides a pathway to survival for many species that would otherwise face a grim future.
There are many institutions and NGOs that advocate for plant conservation in some way. However, few actually foster conservation by actively performing the work needed for conservation, including surveys, monitoring, developing ex situ seed banks, and participating in restoration and recovery. The Center for Plant Conservation, acting through its member gardens, is such an institution, and clearly leads the effort in the United States, doing so with considerable and collective scientific experience.
The concept of the Center for Plant Conservation is brilliant...harness the expertise residing in botanical gardens to work towards the conservation and preservation of the rare native plants of the U.S.
The CPC is a global recognized and highly regarded leader in the field of ex situ, or off site plant conservation. Indeed, they have literally written the book on the subject, or, actually three of them with another in press. These books all finish with one or more appendixes that provide practical, pragmatic, and highly detailed and specific guidelines about how best to go about the various aspects of keeping endangered species alive.
In addition to their books, the bodies of which provide the scientific, strategic and policy underpinnings to the practical appendixes, the CPC serves as a de facto national network that strives to prevent extinction the the most endangered plants in the USA.
Indeed, the first plant species deemed to have been recovered enough to be taken off the Endangered Species List, Potentilla robbinsiana, was very much a direct consequence of the work by the New England Wildflower Society, a CPC participating Institution.
I have long admired the work of the Center for Plant Conservation and in the late 1990s I was thrilled to be asked to join their science advisors. In time, the University of Washington Botanic Gardens became part of the network and I became a conservation officer with CPC. I am now Director of the Gardens and continue to believe in the good work of the main office and all of the network. This is an amazing organization that has increased awareness about the importance of conserving plants - the foundation of living communities - and they have also increased funding within the network, allowing the members to do more on-the-ground conservation. The collective problem-solving of the network is one of the best things it offers too. When we are faced with a vexing conservation problem in Washington state, we put the question out to the network and get suggestions from Florida, Hawaii, and Colorado. It is great to have that sort of support.
What CPC needs more is more funding. Funds for plant conservation are woefully inadequate and we are losing the race against time and climate change.
The Center For Plant Conservation has its focus exactly where it needs to be and is positioned to help botanical gardens do their best to help protect our national heritage of native plants. The protection of genetic diversity is actively addressed by their good work. As a curator in a botanical garden I am thankful for their support and grateful to work with them.