Triad Cities get Native Plants Policies, Thanks to Chapter Advocacy

Greensboro and Winston-Salem pass policies that promote the use of native plants and ban invasives.

Two new native plant policies were recently passed in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, thanks to advocacy by local Audubon chapters and other partners. Combined, the policies will result in more native plants blooming in the Triad, while also cutting down on the use of invasive species in landscaping. The policies come after years of work by our chapters to promote native plants and educate decision-makers and the pubilc on the benefits they provide for birds and pollinators. 

The policies also add to the growing momentum for native plants across North Carolina. Last year, the NC General Assembly passed a new law requiring the use of native plants at all state parks, historic sites, and roadways. This winter, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new executive order requiring the use of native plants on all landscaping for future state-owned projects.  

Greensboro-wide Native Plants Requirement 

The Greensboro City Council unanimously passed a policy this month that will promote the use of native plants on city-owned and maintained property and eliminate the use of invasive plants. 

The policy specifically requires that any new plantings at any city-owned site or facility shall have a minimum native plant species composition of 50 percent by 2025.  

Since 2021, T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon has been working to promote the use of native plants by organizing their members around the issue. After the first meeting with Greensboro officials years ago, chapter members were able to partner with the city on a Native Plants Week Proclamation in October of 2021, as well as to draft a native plants resolution in the fall of 2022 that served as the basis for what the City Council passed on March 5th. 
“We‘re extremely proud that this same resolution eventually made it on the City Council’s agenda for March 5th,” said T. Gilber Pearson Audubon board member Jack Jezorek. “We hope this serves as an example for other cities and Audubon chapters across the state.” 

The policy holds even more significance when added to the recent executive order extending the state’s native plants policy, and aiming to restore and protect 2 million acres of forests and wetlands in North Carolina as well as plant 1 million new trees. 

Thanks to the Greensboro Office of Sustainability and Resiliency, Parks and Recreation Department, North Carolina Native Plant Society, and other community members and partners that have worked on this important milestone for the city of Greensboro. 

Winston Salem Allows More Natural Landscaping on Private Property 

In other bird-friendly news, the Winston-Salem City Council, approved ammendments to its Natural Landscape Area Ordinance that would allow residents greater freedom to create “natural areas” in their yards, which are areas that are made up primarily by plants that are native to the region. Previously, there were rules in place limiting the size and placement of natural areas. The changes lessen these restrictions for business and residential lots in the city that want to utilize native plants in their landscaping, serving as a positive step forward for both birds and people. 

Earlier this year, Susan Andrews, Forsyth Audubon member and coordinator of their Bird-Friendly Yards program, had a conversation with Winston-Salem’s sustainability officials about the proposed changes. 

The now-accepted changes lessen the restrictions in place for natural landscaping by increasing the size and borders of allowable natural areas for private residents and businesses, and requires free registration of the property owner’s plans for a natural area. Signs related to the natural area would also be required, with one such accepted sign being the National Audubon Society’s “Plants for Birds” sign. 

Forsyth Audubon advocated for the expansion of natural areas because they provide better habitat for birds and insects, which are adapted to the resources provided by native plants. Natural areas also require less maintenance, promote good soil health, and provide erosion and flood water control. 

“We activated our members early in February to support this proposed amendment and were extremely pleased to see it passed,” said Forsyth Audubon Advocacy Committee Chairperson Kim Richmond. “This process served to strengthen our relationship with the sustainability director and city staff, which will help us continue this important work into the future.” 

Forsyth Audubon also approved a $3,500 grant request for the city to install a garden at Second Street Park in downtown Winston-Salem designed to demonstrate a native plants garden that features these ordinance changes. Forsyth Audubon member Max Notke will serve as a collaborator and landscape designer for the project. 

For future ways to support native plant initiatives and other advocacy opportunities, connect with your local chapter and sign up for advocacy alerts. 

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