The Mississippi Plant Conservation Alliance had their first ever sit-down, face-to-face meeting on August 13, 2019, at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, Mississippi. The meeting was attended by seventeen people representing twelve organizations. Here are the notes from that meeting.
Toby Gray, Mississippi State University
Melinda Lyman, TNC, Camp Shelby
Josh Coursey, TNC field technician, Camp Shelby
Maureen Schwer, TNC field technician, Camp Shelby
Scott Wiggers, USFWS Botanist
James Austin, NRCS Field Office, Pearl
Robert Stewart, Retired biologist, plant collector
Lucille McCook, Herbarium curator, University of Mississippi
Mac Alford, Botanist, University of Southern Mississippi
Nadine Phillips, Librarian, plant enthusiast
Stephanie Green, Holly Springs Audubon Center
Eli Polzer, Botanist, USACE
Robert Ballard, Camp Creek Native Plants, New Albany
Tim Schauwecker, Mississippi State University Department of Landscape Architecture
Nicole Hodges, MDWFP ecologist
Heather Sullivan, Curator of State Herbarium
Patrick Thompson, Coordinator of Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance
(17 people, 12 orgs)
- Who are we and what do we want to be?
Toby Gray: I first heard about Plant Conservation Alliances from Jennifer Ceska’s presentation at the Mid-South Prairie Symposium at Austin Peay State University in 2016. At that time I worked for the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative as a GIS analyst doing research on ecological assessments of large landscape systems. The LCC’s were a US Fish and Wildlife Service initiative that fostered cooperation between federal and state agencies, NGOs, non-profits, tribal organizations, and universities. They encouraged conservation through partnerships across jurisdictions. Their conservation design model did not address plants directly, but sought to protect animal species by protecting habitats, and as soon as you start talking about habitats you start talking about plants. In 2017 the Department of Interior eliminated funding for LCCs. Although the US Congress restored the allocation, the broad partnership, at least for this region of the country, has gone away. In my current academic appointment, I am not as well-suited to support a Mississippi PCA as I once was, but I still want to do the work. My approach will always reflect the LCC legacy and my background in Landscape Architecture and Landscape Contracting: conservation through partnerships across jurisdiction and through a large landscape, ecological, habitat-based model.
Toby summarizes the timeline in the meeting packet. Scott Wiggers and Toby began discussion of a Mississippi PCA in late 2017. Collaborated on a scoping letter that went out in March 2018. Melinda Lyman and Eli Polzer were active in helping edit the founding documents on the Google Drive. We had two conference calls. In May 2019, six people from Mississippi came to the Alabama PCA at the University of West Alabama. A theme of that meeting was helping Mississippi establish a PCA, in the same way that Georgia helped Alabama ten years ago.
A discussion about working with private landowners
Longleaf Implementation Team: USFS(?) program that works with private landowners
USACE also works with private landowners and foresters.
NRCS has a good reputation with private landowners in the state, we are happy to have them in the room at the table today
John Gruchy at MDWFP has done a lot of work with private landowners, keeping in touch with MDWFP private lands programs will help us understand who might want to work with us and where they are.
Federal Land: Scott Wiggers: Federal agencies are obligated to conserve, or at least not jeopardize the existence of, listed plat species. By federal law (and cultural tradition), animals belong to the government, but plants are private property. The law compels private land owners to not jeopardize listed animals, but does not prevent them from destroying listed plants. Laws protecting plants are created at the state level. Georgia has a state law protecting plants.
Action Item: Add USFWS plants and ESA brochure to website
While State of MS has no legal/official state listing or listing process, federal lands within the State have lists (potential endangered-threatened [PET]) by district.
State of AL has state authorization listings through Forever Wild, which permits them to qualify for Section 6 & SWAP funding
State of AR has no official PCA but does have state authorization listings that qualify for Section 6 & SWAP funding
Possible action item: find out which states have laws protecting rare plants. Put this information on the website.
The MPCAdiscussed lobbying last year. Since most of the core group works for federal agencies or universities, it’s not something we can take on. As the group grows, perhaps others can.
Some federal lands have stewardship projects. For example, Bienville National Forest has contracted stewardship projects to manage beetle infestations. USFS doesn’t have the manpower to do this themselves.
Question: What is Alabama PCA doing that was not getting done before?
Patrick: We are getting people together to communicate and prevent redundancy of efforts. We don’t need two people collecting the same data, but we might need two people planting plants.
Discussion of new leadership at the Center for Plant Conservation: They have traditionally been a top-down kind of organization, now taking a more bottom-up approach.
- Discussion of plants, how to prioritize, how to initiate conservation action
Tim Schauwecker: Apios priceana has been observed in Sand Creek. We (scientists and researchers at Mississippi State University) are developing a management plan for the Catalpa Creek watershed, much of which is owned by the University. That is one watershed over from Sand Creek (a proximal, or neighboring, watershed). Does it make sense to initiate a Price’s potato bean project for Catalpa Creek?
Scott Wiggers: It’s a fact of life that most outplanting projects fail. The really important thing is to learn from the failures. Keep good records of everything. Also important to read the USFWS Controlled Propagation Policy. The Service has a structure for breeding and propagating listed species. Know what permits are needed. Don’t introduce alien genetics. Most of all read the policy. Then take deliberate action, which means don’t do something just because your gut tells you to.
Action item: put the Controlled Propagation Policy on the website, or at least link to it.
Consider also including links to other relevant plant conservation documents, such as:
IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions & Translocations: https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/documents/2013-009.pdf
CPC Best Plant Conservation Practices: https://saveplants.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CPC-Best-Practices-5.22.2019.pdf
BGCI & IABG’s Species Recovery Manual: https://www.bgci.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Species_Recovery_Manual.pdf
Question for the Mississippi Natural Heritage Program folks: Do you survey for the plants on your lists? Answer: We have a staff of three. We do what we can.
Comments from the room: We are losing botanists. Botany as a science is experiencing a decline in numbers of people doing it, teaching, practicing.
Every listed species has inadequate monitoring. Federal and state agencies used to do more monitoring, but they no longer have the staff for it. Sometimes they contract out the I&M.
How many county floras does Mississippi have? Not many. We have many very common plants that have only a few records.
Question for Patrick: How does having a plant Atlas affect your state (Alabama):
Answer: We’ve always had it, so we are kind of spoiled.
Comments from the room:
All the herbaria in Mississippi have been digitized.
BONAP is helpful and widely used, but many of their maps make no sense to me.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has maps
Biodiveristy Information Serving Our Nation (BISON) has maps
Question: How can we help MNHP re-survey?
Patrick Thompson: Al Schotz helped us by getting our list down to 25…on the other hand there are no wrong choices, they all need attention.
Possible action item: review the botanical literature for the state of Mississippi, particularly the “grey” literature in Mac’s collection, archive by keywords including species, county names, ecological communities, etc.
The Mississippi Native Plant Society would also be interested in this, and the plant atlas. For the PCA, we focus on the rare and imperiled species, while supporting the broader effort.
Comments about Sidney McDaniel’s collection in IBE (what is IBE?)
What about contacting the graduate students of Sidney McDaniel? What about their field notes? Many of those master’s theses that never got published were very comprehensive.
- About Individuals and Organizations, Education and Outreach:
Patrick: One on one is the best way to contact people, if you want them to engage. Your big list is good but you need contact them in small groups or individually.
Back to plant discussions: Whorled sunflower:
Originally collected in Tennessee in 1892
No other record until discovered in Georgia in the 1990s
The 100+ year gap in known collections suggests that the species may have been collected and mis-identified as a similar species. Possibly sitting in a herbarium somewhere.
Found in Mississippi in 2017
Stephanie Green thinks they might could grow it at Strawberry Plains.
The USFWS has a public facing web page for each ESA listed species:
[species name] + ECOS or visit USFWS’s website directly (https://ecos.fws.gov/)
Charismatic and other species we would like to put on our web page