Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to support the botanical research capacity of the federal government. H.R. 1054 is sponsored by Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

The bill emphasizes the importance of protecting native plants and addresses botanical workforce issues. It would create a new program of botanical science research within the Department of the Interior to help increase federal botanic expertise and would allow Interior to hire additional botanical personnel. The bill would create a student loan repayment program for botanists. It would also create a preference for federal agencies to use locally-adapted native plant materials in their land management activities.

“One of our nation’s greatest assets is its biodiversity, which is why we must support the health of these ecosystems, as well as the dedicated scientists that have made our earth’s preservation their life’s work,” said Quigley in statement. “I am pleased that this bill will support their mission to sustain native and locally adapted plants so that America remains a vibrant, inspiring, and sustainable place to call home.”

“Introducing this bill with my colleague, Mike, is a positive step in ensuring the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native species that characterize our communities and nation,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “We have a responsibility to help maintain a healthy and sound ecosystem that we can all be proud of. I’m glad that this bill will also encourage young people to enter careers in botanical science.”

The U.S. is projected to lose roughly half of its botanical experts in the next decade due to retirements. Some federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Land Management have already reported a deficiency in their botanical workforce. Meanwhile, fewer advanced degrees in botany are being awarded.