The Governor’s Biodiversity Initiative | Top Three Take-Aways

"<yoastmarkOn Sep. 7, Governor Jerry Brown issued an important and historic executive order to protect California’s biodiversity. The order directs the Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to partner in protecting California’s native vegetation and animals while restoring and protecting habitat. It also establishes Sep. 7 as California Biodiversity Day.

“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 order.

Gov. Brown issued the executive order in tandem with an ambitious action plan titled, the California Biodiversity Initiative: A Roadmap for Protecting the State’s Natural Heritage. The Roadmap is the result of a months-long collaboration between government agency employees, conservation organizations, and herbaria. CNPS Executive Director Dan Gluesenkamp served as a leading participant of the task force, guiding the development of the group’s  biodiversity charter and the subsequent action plan. The charter outlines the vision that is further described in the Roadmap’s principles and proposed actions. Long-time CNPS partners also participated, including the Jepson Herbarium,  Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, and key plant scientists from the University of California.

As part of this effort, the Governor issued a Biodiversity Proclamation in May, creating World Biodiversity Day, and revised the 2018-19 budget to allocate $2.5 million to launch California’s Biodiversity Initiative. In an especially inspiring demonstration of the power of this new commitment, the Governor’s signing of California’s landmark Senate Bill 100 climate change legislation came with a release of an Executive Order specifically requiring that climate change solutions must not harm native plant biodiversity.

“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,” says Gluesenkamp. “Now,  we must work together to continue and build on the momentum the Governor’s actions have produced.”

Important Take-Aways

  1. Biodiversity protection and climate change goals must co-exist.  It’s auspicious that the Governor issued a Carbon Neutrality Executive Order two days after the biodiversity order. The order states, “All policies and programs shall be implemented in a manner that supports climate adaption and biodiversity, including protection of the state’s water supply, water quality and native plants and animals.”  This language establishes a formal unification of climate change goals and biodiversity protection. It carries the potential to end the troubling false choice between clean energy and habitat protection.
  2. The Biodiversity Initiative is powerful validation of active CNPS projects. The Roadmap identifies seven broad areas of work. Nearly all align with major CNPS programs and projects:
  3. Native plant protection is on its way to achieving parity with that of animals. The Roadmap recognizes a reality often lamented among native plant advocates. “The State’s plant resources have generally lagged behind similar efforts for animal species,” it states. The Roadmap proposes actions to “bring greater parity in policy considerations” between plants and animals.

What’s Next?

The action’s outlined in the Governor’s plan are approaches CNPS has tried — and perfected, Gluesenkamp adds. “CNPS projects are proving these work. Now it’s time to scale them up and complete the effort.”

With this important initiative, CNPS and partners will bring together the experts to complete the work that the Governor has detailed. The opportunity is great, and the time is now for California’s native plants!

Your Support Makes a Difference!

Your support makes the CNPS Mission possible. Please consider making a donation today to support our work to protect and advance California’s biodiversity. If you’re not already a member, joining CNPS is the best way to get started.


  1. I’ve never found Southern California “Native Plants” to be particularly
    useful, medicinal, edible or pleasantly herbal, as compared to other
    similar bioregions. Drought tolerance and their history here is just
    not enough. Could you direct me to a list or resource
    that might change my mind? I love foraging the ‘weeds’ because they
    fulfill the ‘useful’ list above…. are there ‘native’ weeds that might jump
    this gap for me? Thank you,

    1. Hi Jane,

      Thanks for your questions here. There are actually quite a few medicinal, edible, and herbal uses for our California native plants!

      Take a look at this great Garden Q&A article about home foraging with natives by Santa Barbara Botanic Garden expert, Antonio Sanchez:

      Also, be sure to see Alicia Funk’s native plant fall recipes published in our Fall 2017 Flora (pages 18 & 19):

      Lastly, you can purchase Alicia Funk’s book, Living Wild – Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California, through our CNPS Store:

      Thank you!
      Kristen Wernick
      Outreach Coordinator

  2. This is a far-reaching and necessary process to marry our climate change goals with equally necessary goals in preserving our biodiversity. A third process that needs to be integrated in this is bringing our population levels to sustainable levels — and that involves making highly effective contraceptives universally accessible to all women. Without this, we will not achieve sustainable populations humanely, nor will we achieve adequate slowing of climate change. Not achieving either of these, in turn, will undercut the preservation of biodiversity.

  3. I’ve learned that “native” plants & “biodiversity” preservation unfortunately mean most toxic herbicides and deforestation…

    1. Not sure where your information is coming from! The only “deforestation” that i can forsee happening in the name of biodiversity may be the removal of eucalyptus trees. as for the toxic herbicides, there are plenty of non toxic ones and no shortage of good ole normal weeders.

  4. As Governor Brown’s document states, “In order to meet goals to preserve and protect California’s biodiversity, it is necessary to develop a baseline understanding of the current status of the State’s biodiversity. Doing so requires documenting where species are located, current status, and potential threats. This baseline knowledge is the foundation of intelligent action. With a full understanding, we can scientifically assess rarity, prioritize resources and efforts, and make sound conservation and development plans that are based on data.”

    And while I am fully supportive of this, as I strongly believe in using real data to support science decision-making and the completion of the CA Vegetation Mapping project is extremely important–I believe a crucial piece is missing from the conversation on baseline information–we also need to understand the soils that our native vegetation is found on. How can we fully address his statement on baseline understanding of the species if we are not also documenting the soils they require for their growth and establishment? I would love to see some collaborations with partners that can provide soils data and support to add this key information to the baseline information that is being collected.

    1. Most vegetation mapping surveys (at least the ones done with CNPS) account for soil type. Analyzing vegetation alliances’ and associations’ soil type may be more effective than looking at the needs of individual species. That would be a huge undertaking and probably redundant when you scale everything up to the state-wide scale.

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