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State Port Pilot: New Law Prioritizes State's Native Plants

This story originally appeared in the State Port Pilot on July 31, 2019.

A new law recently signed by Gov. Roy Cooper requires state transportation officials to give priority to native plant species for roadside landscaping. Sponsored by Southport Sen. Bill Rabon, the measure was praised by environmental groups as a way to help boost wildlife populations and encourage pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

SB 606 - which passed both houses of the legislature unanimously - requires the state to use more native species, a movement that the Audubon Society has pushed for years.

"The new law will also help grow demand for native plants, increasing their availability at local nurseries," said Audubon N.C. spokesman Ben Graham in an email.

"Audubon thanks senators Rabon-District 8, Jim Davis-District 50, and Tom McInnis-District 25, the bill's primary sponsors, for recognizing the value of native plants to North Carolina's wildlife and natural heritage.

"Native plants play a crucial role in sustaining North Carolina's birds, but non-native and often vigorously growing plants continue to put pressure on these habitats," Audubon North Carolina Executive Director Andrew Hutson said in a prepared statement. "This bill represents a bipartisan, common-sense, and far-reaching win that ensures the state will prioritize native plants across North Carolina."

Support in the legislature is further evidence of growing momentum for bird-friendly native plants across North Carolina, driven by Audubon's advocacy. In Matthews, Audubon members organized earlier this year to help pass an ordinance that added native plants and removed invasive species from the town's list of acceptable plants for developers.

Other communities, such as Winston-Salem, Durham, and Asheville, have done the same or are planning revisions to their plant lists, with the help of Audubon Ambassadors. Wake County similarly passed an ordinance last year in support of more native plants. In Raleigh, First Lady Kristin Cooper has gotten involved, partnering with Audubon to plant a bird- and pollinator-friendly garden at the Executive Mansion.

Find more information about the bill and native plants at

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