Contact(s): Kevin Doyle, DNR conservation botanist, 608-416-3377
February 12, 2019
MADISON - Plant lovers and others who enjoy searching for rare plants or "botanizing" can put their passion to work by attending free volunteer training for the Wisconsin Rare Plant Monitoring Program and then helping track down rare plant populations.
Training sessions are set for Cable, Green Bay, Oconomowoc and River Falls in March and April; to see workshop dates and locations and to register, search online for Wisconsin's Rare Plant Monitoring Program.
Volunteers who complete the training will be sent out this spring and summer to check on some of Wisconsin's rarest and most beautiful native plants in some of the state's most pristine places, says Kevin Doyle, who coordinates the Rare Plant Monitoring Program for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation Program.
"If you already enjoy searching for rare plants or "botanizing," we invite you to put your effort to a direct conservation benefit," Doyle says. "Volunteers' contributions are critical to native plant conservation in Wisconsin."
The vast majority of these rare plant populations are found on publicly owned or publicly accessible land. The information volunteers collect is provided to property managers and added to the Natural Heritage Inventory, a statutorily required system of collection, storage and management of rare species information. DNR staff use inventory information when developing master plans for state properties and conservation strategies for species and communities and when reviewing proposed projects to ensure they avoid impacts to rare species and in conducting research.
In 2018, citizen scientists trained through DNR's Rare Plant Monitoring Program and assigned to specific sites collected data on dozens of priority species. In 2017, citizen scientists submitted data on 185 surveys - more information on Wisconsin's rare plants than all previous years combined. Read the 2017 Rare Plant Monitoring Program report to see what they found.
DNR relies largely on trained volunteers to help find and collect data on rare plant and animal species. Wisconsin has roughly 1,900 native plant species and 16 percent of them are endangered, threatened or special concern species, meaning their populations are low or declining. "Even with the growing number of volunteers, Doyle has been prioritizing rare plant surveys "to steer surveys toward populations where we're likely to find them and where we can make a difference," he says.
"Protecting the hundreds of rare plant species and thousands of rare plant populations in Wisconsin is more than any one agency can handle," Doyle says. "Volunteers make this possible. We're truly grateful for their help and invite more Wisconsinites to get involved in rare plant conservation by taking the training."
The Rare Plant Monitoring Program is funded largely by the DNR Endangered Resources Fund. Donate now through your Wisconsin income tax form and your donation is doubled.