In 2003, Fish and Game reached a milestone when amendments to state statutes directed the agency to provide expertise on plants. While wildlife has always been - and remains - the agency's primary mission, Fish and Game, the agency was newly charged with keeping an eye on the flora-from the dwarf purple monkey flower, which is less than two inches tall, to the grand fir, which can tower above 200 feet.
Rare and native plants are valuable for agriculture, horticulture, medicine, construction, and more. The role of native plants reaches far beyond human values and uses. Every species has adapted to native habitat over time, and most species - from the tiniest pollinator to the most robust game species - occupy a specialized niche dependent on native plants. The importance of healthy native habitat cannot by understated, and cannot be successfully mimicked by substituting non-native plants. . Plus, their flowers and foliage make up a unique and lovely part of Idaho's landscape.
The Idaho flora is made up of some 3000 species, about 400 of which are rare enough to be tracked by the agency in a database. This database began in the 1980s as part of the Idaho Natural Heritage Program. Fish and Game also monitors 15 to 20 rare species in the field each year.
Botanists traverse the mountains and plains to assess known populations and search for new populations. Additionally, they map noxious weeds, aid wildlife management efforts, and collect seeds of important wildlife species for habitat restoration and fire recovery.
No state general funds or hunting/fishing license fees cover botany work. Most research is funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management for specific projects. Anyone can support rare plant conservation by donating to Fish and Game's Wildlife Diversity Program, by checking "Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund" on their tax returns, or by buying a bluebird, elk or trout license plate.
To read more about 'A Colorful Landscape' and other 75th Celebration stories, go to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/75th.