US seed import permits

Jane McGary
Sat, 23 Feb 2013 12:12:21 PST
The difficulties faced by individuals who want to import plant 
material for personal hobby interests would be considerably 
diminished if specialty nurseries could bring these plants, seeds, 
and bulbs from abroad safely and economically, and then propagate 
them. However, large nursery operations tend to concentrate on plants 
that appeal to the mass market, and small nurseries usually have 
little spare cash to spend on the fees charged for air shipment, 
phytosanitary certificates, and CITES permits. Also, they may not 
have facilities appropriate for holding imported plants in 
quarantine, which I think is sometimes required.

It would be appropriate for groups of enthusiasts to help fund the 
importation of plant material by permit-holding nurseries with a good 
record of maintaining and propagating the types of plants involved. 
The rewards might not come for several years, considering the time 
necessary to propagate stock, and there would inevitably be some 
losses, but this could lead to a wider range of plants available to 
specialist gardeners -- and even to the general public, as we have 
seen, for instance, in the mass appeal of South African species 
promoted by the Denver Botanic Garden.

I don't know what the legal complications might be for nonprofit 
societies to give grants of this kind, but small groups of private 
individuals could do so. It would be somewhat similar to purchasing a 
share in a seed-collecting expedition. Sponsorship like this was 
usual in the early days of plant exploration in Britain, for instance.

Someone mentioned the Nature Conservancy as an opponent of plant 
importation, but the most vocal institution in this regard may be the 
Natural Resources Defense Council, whose representatives can often be 
heard arguing against the introduction of any non-native species, 
including ornamental plants in gardens. I've long supported TNC and 
haven't noticed any opposition to gardening and farming among the 
staff members I've had contact with. Indeed, their publications 
(which use more resources than I think is wise, by the way) tout 
their collaboration with ranchers, fishermen, and other resource users.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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