Arizonans have long valued our native plants. Protections were first enacted in 1929. The Arizona Native Plant Act now governs designation of native plants, harvesting and clearing protected plants on private and public land, gathering wood, collecting native seeds, and enforcement to ensure that Arizona’s rich and beautiful habitats are protected.
The Arizona Legislature first passed a measure to protect native plants in 1929, in Laws 1929, Chapter 8 (PDF page 75).
The new law listed protected plants and prohibited destruction, mutilation, or removal of any living protected plant without a written permit. The Arizona Commission of Agriculture & Horticulture issued permits to collect plants for scientific or educational purposes. Violators could be fined $50 to $300. The bill passed with an emergency clause, becoming effective upon the signature of Governor John Phillips on February 15, 1929. J. Morris Richards described the legislation in his History of the Arizona State Legislature (PDF page 62).
Legislators worked on the issue again in Laws 1933, Chapter 99 (PDF page 517). The Legislature set a 30-day time limit on the permits issued by the Arizona Commission of Agriculture & Horticulture and allowed it to collect a fee of $5 for each permit, authorized peace officers to make arrests to enforce the act, and empowered county boards of supervisors to adopt ordinances for the enforcement of preservation of plants. Laws 1935, Chapter 66, (PDF page 342), added provisions regulating collection of yucca leaves for their fiber, which was intended for commercial purposes.
The laws were included in the 1939 Arizona Code at §§49-401 through 49-409 (PDF page 32).
Protection of native Arizona plants was included in the Arizona Revised Statutes when it was compiled in 1956.
The protection of native plants continued to be of interest to the Legislature. Laws 1967, Chapter 74 (PDF page 516) reorganized the provisions of the law.
The bill created the tag and permit system Arizona still uses for the authorized transport of protected native plants. The Commission of Agriculture & Horticulture was tasked with adopting regulatory rules. The legislation also established the Commission as a “90-10” agency: 90% of the fund was to be used by the Commission for enforcement, while 10% was credited to the state general fund.
Changes to protection of native plants in the 1970s
Arizona legislators continued to show their commitment to Arizona’s native plants and their willingness to dive into the details of crafting the law.
Laws 1972, Chapter 187 (PDF page 1425) required the Commission to hold a public hearing on native plants at least once a year, increased enforcement authority, and included imprisonment among the penalties for violations.
Laws 1975, Chapter 139 (PDF page 642) added certain dead plants to the definition of protected native plants:
The legislation also set a fee for removal of trees cut for wood and recognized the enforcement authority of state, federal, or tribal agencies. Laws 1976, chapter 179 (PDF page 934) added management of the wood receipt system to the Commission’s responsibilities.
Laws 1978, Chapter 109 (PDF page 337) changed the penalties to conform the Arizona Native Plant Act to the reorganized criminal code passed during the same session at Laws 1978, Chapter 201 (PDF page 717). A first conviction would result in revocation of all permits, including surrender of unused tags, seals, or wood receipts; and prohibit new permits for 90 days. A second offense was a Class 1 misdemeanor. Each violation was considered a separate offense.
Major changes in the 1980s
Laws 1981, Chapter 232 (PDF page 792) revised the process and fees for permits, tags, seals, and wood receipts and authorized enforcement officers to make arrests without a warrant for violations they witness and to confiscate archeological and other specimens or objects that were unlawfully excavated or collected. Violators convicted of a 1st offense were prohibited new permits for a year.
Laws 1989, Chapter 294 (PDF page 1464) rewrote the Arizona native plant act.
Unusual among Arizona legislation, the revised Arizona native plant act starts with a statement of purpose and policy:
The legislation created four categories of protected native plants:
- Highly safeguarded, such as those listed as endangered or threatened by state or federal law,
- Salvage restricted, to protect plants subject to theft or vandalism such as the saguaro cactus,
- Salvage assessed, which includes those that have a salvage value such as the ironwood tree,
- And harvest restricted, which includes dead plants, those subject to harvesting, and those subject to over-cutting such as the mesquite tree.
It directed the Commission of Agriculture & Horticulture to adopt regulatory rules and enabled county and local governments to adopt and enforce ordinances to protect native plants. The legislation specified criminal and civil penalties for violations.
The bill also established the Arizona Protected Native Plant Fund, funded by fees, civil penalties, and other monies collected under the program. It was a “90/10” fund: 90% of funds were for the Commission to administer the program, while 10% was turned over the general fund.
The same year, in Laws 1989, chapter 162 (PDF page 658), the Legislature created the Arizona Department of Agriculture and assigned it responsibility for native plant protection. The new Department of Agriculture was scheduled to launch on January 1, 1991. You can browse the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Native Plants on their website.
Tinkering in the 1990s
Laws 1990, Chapter 374 (PDF page 481) was an omnibus Department of Agriculture bill but did not make policy changes affecting native protected plants. Laws 1993, Chapter 170 (PDF page 856) clarified provisions regarding destruction of native plants when it occurs in the normal course of mining, commercial farming, stock raising operations, and normal and routine maintenance of improvements. Laws 1996, Chapter 102 (PDF page 555) directed civil penalties paid for violations to the State’s General Fund. Laws 1997, Chapter 228 (PDF pages 38-39) changed the Arizona protected native plant fund from a 90/10 plan and authorized the Director of the Department of Agriculture to administer all deposited monies. Laws 1997, Chapter 233 (PDF page 85) reconciled inconsistent enactments affecting the Arizona protected native plant fund.
Into the 2000s
Laws 2000, Chapter 360 (PDF page 335) added a new section, 3-916, allowing homeowners associations and other community-based nonprofits to collect and salvage native plants without obtaining a permit under certain circumstances. The idea was back two years later in Laws 2002, Chapter 38 (PDF page 118) to limit the permit to unincorporated area of the county or city where they are salvaged and make other technical changes.
Laws 2004, Chapter 301 (PDF pages 413-428), was a Department of Agriculture omnibus act. It made technical changes to the provisions governing Arizona native plants and added additional protection for imported protected native plant species. Laws 2005, Chapter 173 (PDF page 610) was another omnibus agricultural act which changed the Director’s rulemaking responsibilities and adopted specific protections for saguaro cacti.
The administrative rules in effect today were adopted in 1987 and have been amended to reflect new legislation. See Arizona Administrative Code rules R3-3-1101 through R3-3-1111 and Appendix A (PDF page 43). You can review the list of Protected Native Plants in Appendix A.
Many of our most familiar plants are protected by the law: the saguaro, blue palo verde, pincushion cacti, Arizona willow, organ pipe cactus, and desert poppy. Many more made the list, as well: check out Grizzly bear prickly-pear, Goodding’s onion, Fish Creek fleabane, Welsh’s milkweed, smoketree, and Thurber’s bog orchid! We’re just glad that someone who remembers the Latin names is keeping track and protecting this living heritage for all of us.