Friday, June 28, 2013

Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance Receives National Award

The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA, 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. GPCA joins recipients such as Missouri Botanical Garden, Smithsonian Institution, and Chicago Botanic Garden.

GPCA was created in 1995 by the State Botanical Garden, Call¬away Gar¬dens, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Georgia Depart¬ment of Nat¬u¬ral Resources’ Nongame Conser¬va¬tion Sec¬tion, the U.S. For¬est Ser¬vice, 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 developed from the Georgia Natural Heritage Program’s Biotics database, and reflect the 'high-priority species' and 'high-priority habitats' outlined in the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP).

Almost 20 years later, GPCA includes 31 gardens, organizations, universities, and agencies working together on more than 70 rare and endangered plant species throughout Georgia. These organizations, ranging from the US Fish & Wildlife Service to Zoo Atlanta, Georgia Power to the Chattahoochee Nature Center, and Georgia Botanical Society to 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 the tenure of GPCA, 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 2013 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 added. “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
Augusta State University
Brenau University
Callaway Gardens
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 Native Plant Society
Georgia Power
Georgia Southern Botanical Garden
Georgia Tech
Georgia Wildlife Federation
Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Station
Kennesaw State University
Piedmont College
Southeastern Technical College
Shorter College
The Nature Conservancy of Georgia
TNC at Fort Benning
North Georgia College and State University
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia
The University of Georgia
USDA Forest Service
US Fish and Wildlife Service, Field Office
Valdosta State University Herbarium
Zoo Atlanta
Jennifer Ceska accepts the award on behalf of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance at the 2013 annual conference in Phoenix. (From left, Ray Mims, APGA board member and Conservation Horticulturist of the U.S. Botanic Garden, D.C.; Jennifer Ceska; David Price, chair of the APGA Awards Committee and Director of Bok Tower Gardens, Fla.)

Photo by Darrylee Cohen of Haute Photography (Phoenix, Ariz.)

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