Cantwell, Collins Introduce Bill to Restore Native Plants in National Parks

Legislation would encourage National Park Service to prioritize use of native plant materials

Washington, D.C. — This week, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced legislation to promote the use of native plants. Their bipartisan bill would help preserve biodiversity and realize the numerous benefits that local flora provide to wildlife, human health, and the environment.

The Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act would encourage the National Park Service (NPS) to increase the use of native plant materials on lands it cares for.

“Bringing more native plants back to our shared public lands will help us combat invasive species, provide food and shelter for local wildlife, and adapt to the looming threat of climate change," said Senator Cantwell.

“This bill will ensure that we preserve Maine's cultural history and natural heritage,” said Senator Collins.  “Acadia's native plant communities includes many species such as the blueberry barrens near the mountain summits, the towering white pines in older forests, and the cranberry bogs along Northeast Creek that contribute to Maine’s iconic landscape. Other native plants in Maine are the wildflowers that bloom in August and September, such as asters and goldenrods, helping to attract the more than 3.5 million visitors a year to the seventh most-visited national park in the United States.”

The Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act would establish a pilot program to prompt NPS to give preference to locally adaptive native plant materials and incorporate efforts to prevent the spread of invasive, non-native species.  It would also authorize the Department of the Interior to conduct a study to determine the cost-effectiveness of using native plants.

Native plans boast many advantages over non-native species, including:

  • Requiring fewer pesticides and fertilizers;
  • Requiring less water and maintenance since they have adapted to local weather conditions;
  • Providing shelter and food for local wildlife; and
  • Preventing disruption to native wildlife and larger ecosystems.

In order to maintain these benefits, native plants need help to confront threats including non-native pests, non-native plants, diseases, and a changing climate.  Of the 20,000 known native plant species in North America, an estimated 30 percent are at risk of extinction as a result of habitat loss, invasive species, temperature shifts, and pesticide use.

“We highly commend Senator Collins and Senator Cantwell for their leadership in introducing the Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act,” said Debbie Edwards, President of The Garden Club of America.  “This visionary legislation recognizes that native plants, and the ecosystems they support, are critical to controlling erosion, moderating floods, filtering water and sequestering carbon.  In short they are essential for sustaining life on earth.” 

“Acadia National Park is a living laboratory demonstrating how native plants are important for retaining healthy natural communities,” said David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia.  “Park teams have done a stellar job controlling and preventing the spread of invasive plants here, as well as using native plant species on restoration projects.   Friends of Acadia has been pleased to provide grants for these efforts, and we are now very grateful for Senator Collins’ and Senator Cantwell’s leadership in introducing the Native Plant Species Pilot Program Act to bolster support for native species.”

Senators Cantwell and Collins’ bill has been endorsed by The Garden Club of America and Friends of Acadia.