Native Plant
(updated May, 2008!)
Conservation Economics
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Important Plant Areas


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Calypso bulbosa var americana, New England

(c) Jessie Harris

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(c) Priscilla Titus


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Native Plant
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1459 18th St.
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Phone: 415 970 0394 
e mail: Emily Roberson
Director, NPCC




Cactus (c) David Tibor

(c) David Tibor



fritillaria pluriflora.jpg (15507 bytes)

(c) John Game





(c) Susan Meyer






Dyssodia pentachaeta, Grand Canyon AZ

(c) Lori J. Makarick









Wildflowers, California Coast



Important Plant Areas

In July, 2007, Britain completed a multi-year project to identify and designate its “Important Plant Areas” (IPAs). The project was carried out by our partners at Plantlife International, Britain’s native plant conservation organization.

For more information, see Plantlife International's website

For information on the British IPA program, see their IPA web page and database

For information on IPA programs in countries outside Britain, see

Important Plant Areas (IPAs) have been defined as

"natural or semi-natural sites exhibiting exceptional botanical richness and/or supporting an outstanding assemblage of rare, threatened, and/or endemic plant species and/or vegetation of high botanic value."

-Planta Europa Report on IPAs in Europe

The IPA concept recognizes that to be effective, conservation efforts must focus on plant communities and ecosystems - not only on imperiled species.

The European IPA program is modeled on the Important Bird Area (IBA) program of the Audubon Society and Birdlife International. IBA networks have been identified in a number of European and Middle Eastern nations, and are being used as conservation tools by scientists, advocates and governments.

The American Bird Conservancy also has an Important Bird Areas program. For information go to

There is a growing effort to identify and conserve Important Plant Areas in a number of countries including Turkey, Spain, Sweden and Greece.

We do not yet have an IPA program in the United States. However, there are a number of attempts to designate areas of special botanical or ecological concern on public and private lands in the United States.
The public can work with State and Federal agencies to designate special places under a variety of programs. This page provides information on and links to these efforts.
USDA Forest Service

State Programs

Other Resources


Research Natural Areas (RNAs)
Research Natural Areas form a long-term network of ecological reserves designated for non-manipulative research, education, and the maintenance of biodiversity. According to the USFS, Research Natural Areas are selected to preserve a spectrum of relatively pristine areas that represent a wide range of natural variability within important natural ecosystems and environments, and areas that have unique characteristics of scientific importance.  This designation applies to both designated and proposed Research Natural Areas. Research Natural Areas are also selected for one or more of the following reasons:
  • To serve as reference areas for evaluating the range of natural variability and the impacts of management in similar environments.
  • To serve as areas for the study of ecosystems and ecological processes including succession.
  • To provide onsite and extension educational activities. 
  • To serve as baseline areas for measuring ecological change.
  • To protect and maintain representative or key elements of biological diversity at the genetic, species, population, community, or ecosystem levels.

Special Interest Areas (SIAs)
The USFS defines SIAs as areas managed to protect unusual characteristics.  Management emphasis is on protecting or enhancing, and where appropriate developing and interpreting for public education and recreation, areas of unusual characteristics.

These areas are managed to maintain their special interest values. Typically, Special Interest Areas (SIAs) have been designated as botanical, geological, historical, cultural, paleontological, scenic, or zoological areas. Special Interest Areas may also be designated to protect and manage threatened, endangered and sensitive species, or other elements of biological diversity; or for their emotional significance, scenic values, or public popularity. Special Interest Areas vary in size from small to fairly large.

For more information on RNAs and SIAs, contact your local Forest Service office.


BLM Research Natural Areas
According to the BLM, Research Natural Areas (RNAs) are areas that contain important ecological and scientific values and are managed for minimum human disturbance. RNAs are primarily used for non-manipulative research and baseline data gathering on relatively unaltered community types. Since natural processes are allowed to dominate, RNAs also make excellent controls for similar communities that are being actively managed. In addition, RNAs provide an essential network of diverse habitat types that will be preserved in their natural state for future generations.
Areas of Special Environmental Concern
According to the BLM, ACEC designations highlight areas where special management attention is needed to protect, and prevent irreparable damage to, important historic, cultural, or scenic values; fish or wildlife resources; or other natural systems or processes. ACECs may also be designated to protect human life and safety from natural hazards. The ACEC designation indicates to the public that the BLM recognizes that an area has significant values and has established special management measures to protect those values.

To be considered a potential ACEC an area must meet criteria of both relevance and importance. These criteria are described in BLM Manual 1613, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, section 1613.1.11, and are summarized below.

Relevance. An area meets the relevance criteria if it contains one or more of the following:
1. A significant historic, cultural, or scenic value.
2. A fish or wildlife resource.
3. A natural process or system (including but not limited to areas supporting rare, endemic, relic, or endangered plant species, or rare geological features)
4. Natural hazards (areas of avalanche, unstable soils, rockfall, etc.)

Importance. An area meets the importance criteria if it is characterized by one or more of the following:
1. Has more than locally significant qualities.
2. Has qualities or circumstances that make it fragile, sensitive, irreplaceable, rare, unique, etc.
3. Has been recognized as warranting protection to satisfy national priority concerns or to carry out the mandates of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
4. Has qualities which warrant concern about safety and public welfare.
5. Poses a significant threat to human life and safety, or to property.

Nominations for additional ACECs submitted by the public should be accompanied by descriptive materials, maps showing the location and outline of the nominated area, and a discussion of evidence supporting the relevance and importance of the resources or hazards in the area.

For those areas already nominated as ACECs, the public is encouraged to comment on the relevance and importance of those areas and to recommend
appropriate management strategies for protecting their values.

For more information on BLM RNAs and ACECs in your area, contact your local BLM office.




Hautes Fanges Wildlife Refuge, Belgium

Hautes Fanges Wildlife Refuge, Belgium



Fen, Grand Mesa, CO (c) Peggy Lyon

Fen, Grand Mesa, CO 
(c) Peggy Lyon



Eureka Dunes, CA  (c) David Tibor

Eureka Dunes, CA 
(c) David Tibor



Prarie, Missouri (c) Jessie Harris

Missouri Prairie
(c) Jessie Harris

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