By Greg Hoch
There were some major strides forward for conservation in the 2018 Farm Bill. For example, page 25 of the Joint Explanatory Statement, aka the Managers’ Report, states: “The Managers recognize the benefits of native vegetation . . . . By encouraging the adoption of native vegetation seed blends, USDA programs are supporting habitat restoration for the northern bobwhite, lesser prairie-chicken, greater sage-grouse, other upland game birds, songbirds, monarch butterflies and pollinators.” Any legislative achievement reflects the efforts of dozens of groups and individuals. For this issue, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative’s (NBCI’s) Natives First program was instrumental in coordinating efforts to get the language included.
Historically, only a few grass species were used on habitat projects, and they were often from other parts of the world. Agronomists selected grasses and flowers for fast growth, high seed output and rapid expansion—which unfortunately are three characteristics of invasive species. More recently, many habitat projects have begun to use native plant species. This statement in the Farm Bill will encourage even more projects funded through the USDA to use native plant species, which will increase demand for seed and stimulate local businesses to increase supply.
Native species are adapted to local soils, weather and climate. There also are many species to choose from, and managers can match seed mixes to specific locations and soils within a habitat project. In addition, native plants attract an abundance of insects and produce a diversity of seeds. And that’s exactly what wildlife needs.