Fellow Story

Conserving southern California's native flora

Fellow(s): Nick Jensen

Switzer funds assisted the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) to create a new position for Fellow Nick Jensen as Southern California Conservation Analyst.  Nick, a recent PhD graduate in botany from Claremont Graduate University, joined the organization to further his ambition of putting his botany expertise to applied use in an advocacy-oriented organization.  After nearly a year in the new position, it is clear to Nick Jensen that effective conservation advocacy requires diverse networks, and that building these relationships takes time.  In his work to conserve California's native plants and their habitat, Nick has collaborated with environmental and community activists and CNPS chapters and members to craft the organization's response to a host of significant threats to California's native flora.  Ensuring that members of the press and elected officials heard their message required creativity and persistence.

In addition to serving as the CNPS representative in coalitions of environmental groups, Nick also helped CNPS chapter volunteers across California to better understand environmental policy so their advocacy (such as letter-writing and speaking at public meetings) could be more informed and effective.  CNPS relies on members and volunteers to help carry out its mission - keeping them informed on timely issues is key to success and is fundamental to Nick's ongoing work.

The timeline for conservation "victories" is long.  By consistently - and persistently - speaking up and presenting alternatives, Nick and CNPS hope that their efforts will bear fruit in future years.  This year, they filed public comments against several sprawling development projects that would negatively impact unique plant habitats, guided the federal government's actions regarding off-highway vehicle routes and renewable energy development in California's deserts, and advocated for native plant protections in issues as diverse as solar energy, fracking, logging, water, fire, and coastal areas.