Fellow Story

Plant poachers threaten California’s biodiversity

Switzer Fellow Nick Jensen and Patrick Foy published an op-ed in CalMatters in support of legislation to protect native California succulents from poaching. The bill was signed into law in September, 2021. 

"International criminals rappelling down cliff sides. Game wardens dressed in camouflage to track them. Investigators confiscating contraband destined for faraway places. These scenes sound more like something from a James Bond movie than where they actually occurred: a California state park. And though they also sound like something from the drug trade, they involve succulents — California dudleya (or liveforevers), our native variety of those succulent plants that have become so popular in home gardens and patio arrangements.

In recent years, poachers have ripped thousands of pounds of dudleya from California coastlines, shipping them overseas for high profits. Some are rare species, found nowhere else on Earth. Some are more than a hundred years old; few will live long outside their natural habitat.

The burgeoning international trade in wild species can rear its head in ways that devastate biodiversity. Investigators estimate that in less than five years, poachers have removed enormous quantities of dudleya plants worth millions of dollars from California’s wildlands.

Wildlife officials, conservation advocates and legislators are working to address this concerning trend. Assemblymember Chris Ward of San Diego has introduced Assembly Bill 223, which is in the Senate Appropriations Committee. We believe this legislation will help deter dudleya poaching and highlight the threats plants and wildlife face amid unchecked consumer demand."  ...

Read the entire op-ed in CalMatters.