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The California Biodiversity Initiative is a seven part plan to protect California's biodiversity, focused especially on California's 6,500 native plant species.

“While many people have talked about the importance of biodiversity, Gov. Brown’s vision is the first that really addresses the role of plants.”

SACRAMENTO, Calif.

California has more native plant species than any other state in the U.S., and now Gov. Jerry Brown has taken historic steps to protect that biodiversity. In September, the governor signed two executive orders that connect climate change remediation with native plant preservation. He also unveiled a Biodiversity Initiative Roadmap, detailing a seven-part action plan to preserve California’s native plants and animals.

“Gov. Brown is one of the world’s most influential climate change leaders,” CNPS Executive Director Dan Gluesenkamp said. “While many people have talked about the importance of biodiversity, Gov. Brown’s vision is the first that really addresses the role of plants.”

A Sept. 7 executive order directs the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to partner in protecting California’s native vegetation and animals while restoring and protecting habitat. It also establishes Sept. 7 as California Biodiversity Day.

“CDFW has a proud history of saving California's biodiversity,” said Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Charlton H. Bonham. “This initiative charts a clear path forward for the department and important partners like CNPS, particularly around our work to map California's vegetation and rare plants.”

Another order, issued on Sept. 10, accompanies the landmark Senate Bill (SB 100) to achieve 100 percent carbon-free energy in California by 2045. The carbon neutral order specifically requires that climate change solutions not harm native plant biodiversity.

“The new reality of climate change requires a more thoughtful and systemic approach that considers the connections and the vast web of relationships that tie together the myriad elements of California’s ecosystems,” Governor Brown wrote in the biodiversity order.

Earlier this year, the governor convened a special task force of 26 scientific experts to draft a native biodiversity charter and subsequent action plan. Gluesenkamp served on the group as a lead author of the charter, helping to outline the plan further described in the initiative’s principles and proposed actions. Louise Bedsworth, executive director for the Strategic Growth Council, led the task force on behalf of the governor along with Bonham and CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.

“This work is an important starting point toward protecting California’s unique biodiversity,” Bedsworth said. “The plan is a concrete call to action for all of us – government agencies, non-profit organizations, universities, and other experts — to apply the scientific approaches that we know work on a larger scale.”

Long-time CNPS partners also participated on the task force, including the Jepson Herbarium, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, and key plant scientists from the University of California.

About the Initiative Roadmap

The Biodiversity Initiative Roadmap outlines scientific and educational approaches already in use – and proven to be effective — in California. Specifically, the plan calls out the need to identify California’s important plant areas, map native plant communities, seedbank California’s flora, adopt native horticulture, and educate the public about biodiversity. Each of these areas of work align directly with long-running programs and projects that CNPS and partners have under way.

“Agriculture is the basis of California's prosperity, and plants are the basis of agriculture's success,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said. “This initiative recognizes what we need to do today to protect plant biodiversity and what we must do to preserve the seeds of sustenance for all of humankind tomorrow.”

“Not only are the Governor’s actions a symbolic indicator of California’s genuine commitment to biodiversity, they provide immediate and concrete benefit to those of us doing this work,” Gluesenkamp added. “Now, we must work together to continue and build on the momentum this initiative has produced.”

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