Protection of Native Plants

Protection of Native Plants    

Have you ever wondered if it’s legal to pick a wildflower? Many native plants are protected under three California laws: The California Endangered Species Act (CESA), the Native Plant Protection Act (NPPA), and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In addition, there is special protection for desert plants under the California Desert Native Plant Act. Here is an overview of the 3 main acts. In 1984, California created the Endangered Species Act to parallel the federal Endangered Species act, which allows the Fish and Game Commission to determine which species are threatened or endangered and makes it illegal to import, export, take, possess, purchase, sell or attempt to do any of these actions to specified species. There are 156 species protected under this act. A permit may be given for taking endangered plants for scientific, educational, or management purposes. To list a plant species as threatened or endangered please email NPPA was enacted in 1977 and allows the Fish and Game Commission to designate rare or endangered plants. There are 64 species that are protected under this act. The NPPA makes it illegal to take rare or endangered native plants. There are a few exceptions for agricultural and nursery operations. See the Fish and Game Code section 1900 for more information. CEQA is a law that makes public agencies accountable for publicly disclosing the environmental impacts from projects they approve and provide alternatives or mitigation measures for the impacts they identify. All 220 plants protected under the other two acts must be evaluated, as well as other species that may be of concern. The California Native Plant Society works with CDFW to maintain an Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants. 

So, what about the California poppy and other wildflowers you may want to pick?

There is one more law that you should know about under the California Penal Code Section 384a that says “ no person shall willfully or negligently cut, destroy, mutilate, or remove plant material that is growing upon state or county highway right-of-ways, or upon public lands or lands that are not his or hers without written permission from the owner of the land.”

Removing plants or damaging plants from property you don’t own without permission is considered trespassing and/or petty theft.

Which means generally, we should not be picking flowers we find in most natural places.

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