IAE Celebrates the Seeds of Success Program’s 20th Birthday

By Laura Shriver

June 2020

On May 8th, 2020, the Seeds of Success program turned 20 years old. Seeds of Success (SOS) is a national initiative led by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to collect wild native seed for research, native plant materials development, restoration, and germplasm conservation. SOS collections are the first step in making native plant materials available on a scale that can meet the BLM’s restoration needs.

The Institute for Applied Ecology is one of the many non-governmental organizations that participate in and support the SOS program. IAE has been collecting seed for SOS in Oregon and New Mexico since 2010. A portion of these seeds are in long-term conservation storage to safeguard against the loss of the wild population. The rest of the seed has been used for research, restoration, and native plant materials development.

Horkelia congesta spp. congesta flowering one year after being planted at Papenfus Prairie.

An IAE employee direct seeding Seeds of Success seeds of common native plant species.

In 2012, IAE partnered with the Eugene BLM to develop a Habitat Management Plan for a U.S. Forest Service-designated sensitive species, shaggy horkelia (Horkelia congesta spp. congrasta) at Papenfus Prairie near Eugene, Oregon. In addition to removing invasive species and planting the shaggy horkelia, IAE used seeds of common native species that were collected through SOS for direct seeding in restoration sites. For this project, the SOS seed was an invaluable resource for restoring and encouraging diversity of native species in a critical habitat for a sensitive species.

The IAE Southwest Office also works with the Seeds of Success program in Santa Fe, New Mexico. IAE Southwest coordinates the Southwest Seed Partnership (SWSP) — a collaborative project founded in 2015 to increase the supply and diversity of native plant materials in New Mexico and Arizona. The SWSP collects wild seed, partners with growers to produce seed in seed increase fields, and supports restoration practitioners in using native plant materials. The New Mexico BLM is one of over 100 collaborators to benefit from this partnership and has contributed SOS seeds for grow out and restoration. In the past five years, the New Mexico BLM has made 830 collections in collaboration with the Southwest Seed Partnership.

Seed collection interns Luke Knaggs (BLM) and Mike Beitner (IAE) scout for native plant populations in the Gila National Forest.

Inmates planting wild collected SOS seed into trays for plug production>

The New Mexico BLM and IAE also collaborate on the New Mexico Nature in Prisons Project (NPP) — a collaborative project with the Penitentiary of New Mexico to grow native plants and provide education and skills to inmates that will prepare them for re-entry into civic life. The inmates grew several restoration species from seed collected through Seeds of Success in New Mexico.

Last year, plugs grown by the inmates were used for an outplanting project for the BLM Taos Field Office. IAE and BLM employees planted plugs of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) at the Wild Rivers Visitor Center in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Cerro, New Mexico, for a native plant demonstration garden. More plugs were planted in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area to diversify and provide pollinator benefits around the riparian corridor of the Rio Grande.

Here at IAE, we are proud to work with the BLM and the Seeds of Success Program to support healthy, resilient ecosystems and communities. Cheers for 20 years of SOS, and let’s hope for decades more of conservation, collaboration, and restoration.

Milkweed planting for a native plant demonstration garden at the Wild Rivers Visitor Center.

Showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.