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Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono Introduces Bill to Promote Botanical Research

Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono Introduces Bill to Promote Botanical Research
Legislation would support research, restoration, and use of native plants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

Kalāheo, Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i (July 23, 2018) – Hawai‘i Senator Mazie Hirono has introduced a bill that would support native plant research, encourage the hiring of botanists, and promote the use of native plants for projects on federal lands whenever possible.

In a press release, Sen. Hirono said, “Native plants play a crucial role in conserving and protecting our land, and are an important part of our culture.” Hirono added that the bill would provide resources to ensure land managers have the necessary tools and expertise to protect native plants.

The Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration, and Promotion Act (S.3240) would advance plant research through grant programs within the Department of the Interior (DOI); support hiring and retention of botanists within DOI; give preference to using native plants in land management projects; promote inter-agency cooperation on native plant-related activities; and other directives.

National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) President and CEO Chipper Wichman called introduction of the bill “a bright spot that recognizes the importance of perpetuating the native plant diversity of the United States, and the role of research. At a time when an effort has been launched in Washington to undermine the Endangered Species Act, this bill is even more critical in helping support research and conservation work, like that of NTBG, which is protecting our native species.”

NTBG Seed Bank and Laboratory Manager Dustin Wolkis noted that although Hawai‘i makes up less than one percent of the United States, it is home to over half the plant species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. He added that although plants represent over half of all federally endangered species, they receive less than 4 percent of federal funds available for endangered species protection.

With more than 1,300 native plant species, 90 percent of which are found nowhere else, Hawai‘i has one of the highest rates of endemism in the world and is considered a “hotspot” of both biodiversity and plants threatened with extinction.

If passed into law, NTBG and similar plant science research and conservation organizations could benefit from the bill through new opportunities for people working in plant science and conservation fields, additional funding opportunities for programs designed to protect the environment, and a greater awareness and understanding of the value and importance of rare and endangered native plants across the United States.

The Botanical Sciences and Native Plant bill was introduced on July 18th by Sen. Hirono and co-sponsored by Senators Duckworth (IL), Van Hollen (MD), and Whitehouse (RI). A similar version of the bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

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National Tropical Botanical Garden (www.ntbg.org) is a not-for-profit, non-governmental institution with nearly 2,000 acres of gardens and preserves in Hawai‘i and Florida. The institution’s mission is to enrich life through discovery, scientific research, conservation, and education by perpetuating the survival of plants, ecosystems, and cultural knowledge of tropical regions. NTBG is supported primarily through donations and grants.

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