The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance was recently presented with the 2013 Award for Program Excellence at the American Public Gardens Association annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. Each year the association honors one of its 500 members for innovation in developing programs and pioneering horticultural disciplines. The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, or GPCA, joins recipients such as Missouri Botanical Garden, Smithsonian Institution, and Chicago Botanic Garden.
GPCA (gpca.uga.edu) was created in 1995 by the State Botanical Garden, Callaway Gardens, Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section, the U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy of Georgia with the goal of creating a network for statewide conservation projects. The mission of GPCA is to facilitate partnerships among private and government agencies that have the knowledge, land, and resources to implement high-priority, science-based plant conservation and education projects statewide. The plant conservation priorities of the GPCA are developed from the Georgia Natural Heritage Program’s Biotics database, and reflect high-priority species and habitats outlined in the State Wildlife Action Plan.
GPCA includes 31 gardens, organizations, universities and agencies working together on more than 70 rare and endangered plant species throughout Georgia. These organizations, varying from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Zoo Atlanta, from Georgia Power to the Chattahoochee Nature Center and from the Georgia Botanical Society to the Georgia Native Plant Society, are supported by the Botanical Guardians, a team of citizen volunteers recruited to help monitor and restore imperiled native plant populations. GPCA has been so successful in meeting conservation goals that several states have created their networks based on the Georgia model, including Alabama, North Carolina, Texas, and Arizona.
During GPCA’s tenure, critical mountain bog habitat has been restored to the point where multiple generations of rare plants have reproduced in the wild, a sure sign of conservation success. More than 55 rare plant species have been brought into cultivation, into temporary safeguarding at gardens for study. And more than 27 rare species have been planted into wild safeguarding sites on protected lands. Two species have been removed from the GPCA priority project list because the populations on protected land are thriving in the wild in Georgia.
In support of GPCA for the Program Excellence Award, Peter White, director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, described the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance as “one of the best integrated conservation programs in the country, reaching across many individuals and institutions.”
“What you see in this program is robust and uplifting,” White said. “It is about plants in the wild. It is about plants in our hands, schools, and landscapes. It is about plants in botanical gardens. It is about germplasm samples stored for future use and as a last resort for conservation. It is about graduate student projects and public involvement and education at all levels. It is about people and the good they can do when they work together.”
GPCA MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Chattahoochee Nature Center
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Columbus State University
Fort Valley State University
Georgia Botanical Society
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Georgia Department of Transportation
Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Native Plant Society
Georgia Power Co.
Georgia Regents University (formerly Augusta State University)
Georgia Southern Botanical Garden
Georgia Wildlife Federation
Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Station
Kennesaw State University
Southeastern Technical College
State Botanical Garden of Georgia
The Nature Conservancy of Georgia
The Nature Conservancy at Fort Benning
University of Georgia
University of North Georgia
U.S.D.A. Forest Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (field office)
Valdosta State University Herbarium