Botanic Gardens Conservation International
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BGCI (U.S.) Inc. - Building the Resources of the American BGCI Network

Volume 3 Number 3 - December 1999

Rhonda Poe

Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, Secretary General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) announced the appointment of Rhonda Poe as Executive Director of the organization’s United States Foundation, BGCI (U.S.) Inc. in July 1999. “Rhonda Poe will launch and manage our U.S. Foundation’s operations and develop organizational and project resources. Ms. Poe brings a combination of management, marketing and development experience that will ensure the growth we expect to achieve in the next few years, ” said Dr. Wyse Jackson. Ms. Poe holds a Masters in Communication and formerly served at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia as Director of their $25 million + capital campaign for biodiversity and environmental science.

Located in Wayne, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., BGCI (U.S.) will coordinate efforts with BGCI in the U.K. to strengthen the organization’s ability to initiate and facilitate partnerships between botanic gardens in the United States and gardens in other countries. BGCI (U.S.) plans to build a team of scientific, education and development professionals who will enhance global plant conservation efforts and conservation education.

BGCI (U.S.) Inc. was created in March of 1998, after a highly successful gala at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York hosted by VOGUE Magazine and Beth Rothschild. Ms. Rothschild, Director of the Waddesdon Estate, serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors of BGCI (U.S.). Most of the major public gardens in the United States are BGCI members and the Foundation has special ties with the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden and the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Florida.

After reviewing BGCI materials, assessing personnel, marketing and development strengths, speaking with U.S. partners, researching U.S. philanthropy trends and funding interests, BGCI (U.S.) has identified several areas of focus for projects for the remaining months of 1999 and into the 2000s:

  • Membership categories including a Public Individual Membership Category and U.S. Corporate Membership Category to develop greater U.S. participation in conservation policy.
  • U.S. botanic garden conservation assessment project – to benchmark current accomplishments and leadership in U.S. conservation programmes within the BGCI network of botanic gardens and affiliated organizations, to identify conservation needs and to establish priorities for funding. This project would define exact needs for fund raising, offer opportunities to collaborate with U.S. partners, identify partners for international projects and strengthen the U.S. garden network.
  • Informal education outreach for U.S. gardens, schools and public with related print and electronic access and teacher training to use web-based material.
  • Information technology development and web site design.
  • Miscellaneous project grants for international and domestic conservation and education projects.

The U.S. Botanic Gardens Conservation Assessment Project

Over the past twelve years BGCI has helped botanic gardens in numerous countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union and Latin America, play an ever-increasing role in their countries efforts to protect and manage their plant resources. Assessments have been made in these countries by BGCI and applied as action plans that guide botanic gardens to participate in creating cooperative efforts and sustainable economic development between conservationists and business. Most recently BGCI (U.S.) lent its expertise to develop an assessment and action plan for conservation for the Caribbean with a BGCI member garden, the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, Florida and collaborators throughout the region.

While many Americans are passionate about conservation around the world, many are not aware of the rapidly diminishing native plants that are an intrinsic part of their national heritage. Fortunately, many of the best botanic gardens in the United States understand their responsibility and unique position in the prevention of plant extinction. However, in the United States, botanic gardens develop and fund conservation projects with separate agendas and priorities, based on organizational strengths. Few programmes have lead to an overview of conserving the United States plentiful plant resources and even fewer have produced working plans and partnerships for plant conservation within the U.S. or abroad.

The U.S. Botanic Garden Conservation Assessment is a three-year project with the expectation for viability over ten years. The assessment will:

  • accurately reflect the current condition of plant diversity in the United States;
  • chronicle past efforts in conservation;
  • identify expertise, resources and leadership in the U.S. botanic garden community; and
  • generate reports, strategic plans and public policy for a national program of plant resource conservation and management utilizing the expertise and resources within the U.S. botanic garden network.

At the completion of the project, the assessment will provide the basis for comprehensive and sustainable strategic plans for plant conservation in the United States. A resulting published document would provide:

  • a framework for botanic gardens to play a major role in the conservation of plant species and habitats that are an intrinsic part of the United States’ national cultural heritage and the national economy;
  • a framework for positive action to help conservation and development work cooperatively for an increase in the quality of life for people;
  • a framework for botanic gardens to conduct more research and conservation projects;
  • a model for botanic gardens to capitalize on their facilities as venues for visitor and community education about the importance of plants and their sustainable use; and
  • a framework to develop any additional resources.

The cooperative process of compiling information with U.S. botanic gardens is expected to stimulate a sense of awareness, shared community and partnership. It also is expected to encourage collaborative conservation projects in the U.S. and abroad. Making the assessment available to corporations and government agencies is expected to enhance awareness about the role and resources of botanic gardens in the national conservation effort. The project will include the assistance of our partners the Conservation Committee of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta and the Center for Plant Conservation, as well as major botanical gardens in the United States.

As an organization dedicated to uniting botanic gardens and strengthening their resources for global plant conservation, BGCI (U.S.) is uniquely positioned to address the need for a comprehensive U.S. botanic garden assessment for plant conservation. BGCI’s well-respected global scientific standing and expertise in policy development assures accuracy and fairness in the identification of leadership and resources with the botanic garden community. BGCI’s success in creating partnerships demonstrates the organization’s experience in bringing gardens together for efficient and effective conservation programs.

In the first year, BGCI (U.S.) will organize an advisory committee of U.S. botanic garden conservation leaders, obtain the necessary contacts and agreements for participation and begin to compile history and leadership information. Research on conservation needs will begin. Site visits, where appropriate, will be planned. In year two, BGCI will conduct a project review and compile a draft report for the Advisory Committee. Any missing information or questionable conclusions are confirmed and corrected at this time with new research. A second draft will be produced incorporating new information. In the third year, BGCI will produce a written report for conservation leaders and draft policy for discussion and ratification by gardens and related conservation agencies and the publication will be edited, designed and printed.

Board Development

It is crucial for BGCI (U.S.) to build a Board that maximizes the reality of the international mission of BGCI and the opportunities of being a national foundation. Having Trustees who represent the regions of the United States offer the ability to bring diverse viewpoints and associations to the resources of the BGCI (U.S.).

Ideally, the corporate, financial, legal, government agencies including education, social and philanthropic sectors will be represented. A Board Orientation Handbook is being prepared and will include the by-laws, requirements, FAQs and other information for prospective trustees to make informed decisions about participation. The botanic garden, academic and scientific community will participate in the process of decision-making through a Scientific Advisory Committee that advises the Board and Management on conservation trends and projects.