Putting our landscapes to work on behalf of biodiversity and conservation.
CNPS is a proud sponsor of Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s (D-Burbank) AB 1573, a transformative bill that would create California’s first requirement for the use of native plants in public and commercial landscapes. The bill creates a phased onramp over the next decade to convert non-functional turf to California native plants, giving our industry partners plenty of time to prepare. Passage of this bill would put California’s government and commercial landscapes to work on behalf of biodiversity, giving imperiled pollinators a fighting chance.
- Helps advance statewide goals for biodiversity, water conservation, and urban greening
- Applies only to commercial and public works projects
- Requires low-water native plants in lieu of non-functional turf (doesn’t affect recreational grass or edible gardens)
- Creates a requirement for 25% California native plants beginning Jan. 1, 2026.
- Syncs with upcoming features on Calscape.org, which make it easy for landscapers to create quick plant lists
- Saves money with reduced water needs
Now is the time for AB 1573
California is at the forefront of climate change, as it experiences the real-time impacts of extreme weather, water shortages, and the nation’s highest levels of species loss. This bill helps unite a growing body of California public policy aimed at water conservation, biodiversity protection, and urban greening.
Biodiversity is in crisis
A recently published report by NatureServe found that 34% of plants and 40% of animal species in the U.S. are at risk of extinction. California is among the top three regions in the U.S. for overall extinction risk.
Status of AB 1573
We’re pleased to report that AB 1573 passed through the Senate Natural Resources Committee with a strong vote on July 3. The bill now heads to its final hearing with Senate Appropriations.
In the News
Frequently asked questions
How does AB 1573 support biodiversity?
The best way to protect biodiversity is to conserve the habitat we have left, but our built environments are also needed now more than ever to help connect and create habitat. Urgent action is needed now, and we must do everything we can to reduce the rapid rate of worldwide species decline, including alarming trends here at home. For example, California is home to 40% of North America’s native bee species, and we now have the highest concentration of native bees at risk of extinction. Approximately 90% of insects like moths and butterflies depend on specialized plant relationships to survive – and birds depend on the survival of those insects, especially caterpillars. A 2023 study in the LA area showed increased native landscaping supported greater numbers of foraging birds.
Doesn't this severely limit the plants landscapers have to work with?
Based on our analysis at CNPS, we believe that over time the bill will substantially increase the availability of a wider range of native plant options by securing the necessary demand to drive the market. The bill’s requirement allows for all low-water California native plants, excluding hybrids with non-native plants. Review of the Calscape.org database shows that landscapers would have many strong options for low-water native plants with even more becoming available as the industry ramps up over the next three years.
Why is a requirement needed?
CNPS has been engaged in active industry experiments for nearly a decade, including the recent Bloom! California campaign. During that campaign, native plant sales doubled in just a few years. Meanwhile, CNPS chapter plant sales have experienced record-breaking revenue year-over-year for more than three years in a row. Demand for native plants is strong, driven in part by incentives like water agency lawn-to-garden rebate programs. However, the native plant industry still lacks the supply and support to meet demand at the scale necessary for true transformation. To realize the wide-scale benefits to biodiversity and local ecosystem health, we need more industry players investing in the native plant business and more support for existing native plant operations. But first, those businesses want the assurance of consistent, strong demand. We believe this bill is a game changer by building that demand into statute. We also believe it’s a first step in creating institutional pathways to support ecologically-minded businesses who get involved.
How will AB 1573 help conserve water?
Local native plants are uniquely suited to the climate in which they evolved. Once established in appropriate regional settings, California native plants require little to no supplementary irrigation.
A nine-year case study by the City of Santa Monica documenting the resource consumption at two test gardens showed that the Native Garden used 83% less water; generated 56% less green waste and required 68% less maintenance than the Traditional Garden.
Today, roughly half of all publicly supplied water is used primarily for landscape irrigation, and much of that irrigation is potable water used on non-functional turf. Turf is the number one irrigated crop in the United States. This bill calls on public works, commercial, and other non-residential projects to help reverse these trends by using local native plants adapted to low-water conditions. In addition to being a scarce resource, water is energy-intensive to make potable and transport. Moving to native plant landscapes will realize reductions in energy use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions based on reduced inputs and maintenance needs of these landscapes.
Won't it be hard for project planners to figure out which plants to use?
No. CNPS is currently adding new functionality to Calscape.org to make it easy to filter plants and create plant lists.
What is CNPS saying to concerned industry partners?
This bill is an important starting point, carried by an Assemblymember who understands the industry and is committed to biodiversity. In addition to the points made above, CNPS believes this bill comes at the right time, giving all of us as partners the imperative and opportunity to start testing approaches. With AB 1573 as a catalyst, we can create the infrastructure and support to achieve widespread, life-sustaining landscapes — something that many of us have been working toward for decades. We believe there will be plenty of opportunities ahead to evolve and/or supplement this bill’s trajectory as we learn more.