Category: Ecological Research
Title: Northern Arizona Native Plant Market Feasibility Study
Author: Lynn, J.C., Auberle, W., * Peppin, D.L., * Fule, P.Z., Mottek-Lucas, A.L.
Subject: Feasibility Study
Abstract: The importance of native plant materials is increasing as disturbance events, such as wildfire, drought, and livestock grazing continue throughout the western United States. These disturbance events often create environments suitable for the invasion and establishment of nonnative species further threatening native ecosystems. The need for seeding these disturbed lands has created a large demand for locally-adapted native plants and seed. Use of locally-adapted plant materials has been shown to improve the success of restoration projects and maintain genetic diversity, which is a vital mechanism by which native plant communities can adapt and evolve. Due to the lack of availability and costs for these materials however, many public policies continue to allow the use of non-native plant materials. The use of these materials can compromise the success of restoration projects and can lead to further ecosystem degradation. With an increasing number of large-scale restoration/rehabilitation projects within northern Arizona, agencies and organizations are interested in ways to develop an increased supply of locally-adapted plant materials. This study assesses the opportunity to develop a native plant and seed industry in northern Arizona. To do this, supply and demand surveys were created and administered to identify the most salient issues needed to be considered when initiating a native plant materials market within the region. Through an extensive interview and searching process, participants for each of the surveys were identified. Survey questions were developed based on preliminary information gained through interviews. Survey topics included native plant materials purchasing and expenditures, native plant sales, use and needs, issues and concerns, equipment and operations, collaboration and funding, and policies and regulations. Survey pre-testing allowed for testing of survey question comprehension, efficiency relevancy, and format organization. viii The survey revealed several important issues to both suppliers and buyers of native seed. Both such entities agree that locally-adapted plant materials are important, but that extreme elevation and climate conditions within the region make defining the term “local genotype” difficult. From a supplier’s perspective, inconsistent demand and insufficient knowledge on how to successfully produce native plant materials were important limiting factors. Yet, purchasers appear to be discouraged by the lack of availability and cost of these materials. It appears that within the current market, there is an inconsistent demand for native plant materials due to unpredictability of natural disturbance events such as fire size and frequency or the extent and severity of drought. In addition, organization/agency policy often drives decisions on whether native plant materials are purchased, and, while most agencies have policies requiring the use of native seeds, lack of their availability allows for the continued use of non-native species. An inconsistent and unreliable demand has made suppliers hesitant to further the development of native plant materials. Stewardship contracting (where federal agencies contract with communities in order to help provide a continuing source of local income and employment while restoring and maintaining healthy forest ecosystems), or buy-back programs in which agencies contract with growers to buy-back a portion of the materials produced, could be used to provide suppliers the guaranteed demand they necessitate. Although an abundance of information is available regarding native plant harvesting, cleaning, propagation, and proper storage, this information is not adequately disseminated. Increased communication, information sharing, and partnerships among producers, government agencies, land managers and organizations proves to be important for initiation of a successful market. A regional working group, the Northern Arizona Native Seed Alliance (NANSA) has begun working toward increasing information sharing and collaboration on native plant projects ix among its members. Members include individuals, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and businesses from the region. However, NANSA is still in its infancy. In order for its efforts to become more effective, a stronger involvement among its members needs to occur. The largest factors in determining native plant materials supply and demand appears to be the needs of government agencies involved in landcape-scale revegetation and their associated native plant and seed certification policies. Agencies, particularly federal and state, will continue to play an important role in market development. In using two successful restoration programs within the Great Basin and the Uncompahgre Plateau as native plant market models, most funding for these programs comes from federal agencies. The amount of funding needed for initiation of a native plant materials project in northern Arizona is estimated to be between $500,000 to $800,000 for the first year and between $2,000,000 and $6,000,000 over a five year period. Investigation of ways to secure this amount of funding should be a top priority of regional land managers involved in a regional native plant market.
Type: Feasibility Study
Source: ERI - Special Report
Publisher: Ecological Restoration Institute/NAU