Promoting Plant Conservation: Species of Greatest Conservation Need in State Wildlife Action Plans

Mincy Moffett, Jr., Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Section

State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) are multi-year strategies in which every U.S. state and territory assesses the health
of its wildlife and lays out steps for conserving it over the long term. These plans establish a framework for conservation
efforts that aim to protect species before they are endangered, with each plan custom-fitted to its jurisdiction’s unique
needs and priorities. One of the eight (8) required elements for a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approved plan is the
identification of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) within each jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, most states have not included plants among their SGCN, with only 18% (8 of 56) of states/territories
doing so in the 2005 plan, and 34% (19 of 56) in the 2015 revision. Among the states/territories within the SePPCon
footprint, 17% (3 of 17) included plants in 2005, and 53% (9 of 17) in 2015. Reasons given for this include: 1) state
wildlife agencies charged with the development of SWAPs not having regulatory authority for plant conservation; 2)
agencies not having botanical technical expertise on staff; and 3) plants being excluded from the federal definition of
‘wildlife’ under the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program and, therefore, ineligible for direct funding. One goal of
SePPCon (and a future Southeastern Plant Conservation Alliance [SEPCA]), will be to encourage and support the
inclusion of plants as SGCN in SWAPs by all regional members. The next SWAP revision for most states is due in 2025,
with preparations beginning in the next few years.