History of Torreya Guardians
Endangered Species Action  • Activism  •  Citizen Science


     

Click above for four magazine articles written about Torreya Guardians
"assisted migration" and "rewilding" actions.

"It's an honor to be the guardian of another species —
an honor within each person's reach that we too often forget."
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass


Torreya Guardians is a self-organized group of naturalists, botanists, ecologists, and others with a deep concern for biodiversity protection, who have chosen to use the internet as a tool for discussing ideas, posting plans, and taking a variety of actions in behalf of our most endangered conifer tree: Torreya taxifolia.

There are no by-laws, officers, board, staff, overhead costs, dues, formal organizational structure, or physical location to this organization.

Torreya Guardians does not speak or take action as a group, but instead encourages subsets of those involved to post ideas and initiatives on this website and to help establish links with synergistic organizations and websites.

  


 

ABOVE LEFT: Seeds of Torreya taxifolia donated to Torreya Guardians by the Biltmore Gardens (Asheville NC) in fall 2005, for first distribution in service of "rewilding" T. tax in the spring of 2006.

ABOVE RIGHT: Lee Barnes with a seedling "rewilded" to Waynesville, North Carolina, in 2008 from its "peak glacial refuge" in northern Florida. This was the first "assisted migration" of a plant in the USA endangered by climate change. Learn how our actions are legal.


Torreya Guardians featured in 2020 book for a general audience

    In 2015 science reporter Zach St. George began sleuthing about a new and divisive controversy in conservation, forestry, and endangered species circles. Now usually called assisted migration, this challenge to native range as the sole geographic locus for saving endangered species was the foundation for launching Torreya Guardians back in 2004. Because our group is citizen-led and relies entirely on volunteer planters and their experimental discoveries, we could jump out ahead of the established conservation groups, institutions, and academics in offering this Jurassic-age genus a chance to demonstrate viability far north of the Florida refuge where it waited out the glaciations.

With W.W. Norton as distinguished publisher, The Journeys of Trees presents for a general audience the history and controversy of Torreya Guardians. Our group has become the type example of the kinds of clashes to be expected when 20th-century fears of introducing invasive species meet up with the 21st-century necessity of helping even common native trees move poleward.


"While researchers are using computer models to predict the future needs of threatened species, one group has decided that the time to act is now. The Florida torreya, the most endangered coniferous tree in the US, has been moved north by a group of citizens known as the Torreya Guardians. They exploited a loophole in US law that allows plant translocations on private land by the public but prevents federal conservation authorities from doing the same thing."

— Sarah Dalrymple, 2021
"Why climate change is forcing conservationists to be more ambitious"
The Conversation

* * * * *

"A common prediction for how plants will respond to climate change is that it is humans who got them into this mess and so it is humans who will have to get them out of it. That's why the idea of assisted migration of species, although often illustrated with the proposal to shift polar bears to the Antarctic, crops up more frequently in conversations about how to preserve iconic trees. Indeed, in one of the only real-world examples of assisted migration so far, campaigners have planted the seeds of the critically endangered conifer Torreya taxifolia hundreds of miles north of its Florida home."

— editorial, 4 December 2017
"Grows well in sun and warmth — and shade and cold"
Nature

* * * * *

"For a group of scrappy citizen scientists known as the Torreya Guardians, though, the Florida torreya is more than just a malodorous, finicky conifer — it is a tree worth saving. And it is also becoming a symbol of what can be achieved when a group of private citizens puts their hearts and minds towards saving an endangered species. Their radical if controversial approach might end up shifting the future of conservation, particularly in a warming world."

— Sam Schipani, 2018
"Scrappy Group of Citizen Scientists Rallies Around One of World's Rarest Trees"
Earth Island Journal

* * * * *

"Several individuals and citizen groups have already begun to apply the approach to rare plant species. The Torreya Guardians, for example, a group of volunteers including botanists and professional conservationists largely based in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, have been cultivating seedlings of the Florida torreya since 2005, and planting them outside the plant's formally described historical range (although the Torreya Guardians argue that the species may have thrived there during the last peak interglacial warm period).... A five-year review of [the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service] Florida torreya recovery plan includes a proposal to work with the Torreya Guardians on an assisted-colonization project if other approaches fail."

— Patrick Shirey & Gary Lamberti 2011
"Regulate Trade in Rare Plants"
Nature

* * * * *

As questions swirl about how best to proceed, the plight of one species has driven people to take matters into their own hands. Blighted by disease, the Florida Torreya has lost more than 98% of its population since the 1950s. Over the past decade, the Torreya Guardians have been distributing seeds well beyond the tree's historic range. The private group cites climate change as one rationale for its "assisted migration."

— Richard Stone 2010
"Home, Home Outside the Range?"
Science

* * * * *

Activists for protecting Torreya taxifolia have made a case for the assisted migration of the conifer from Florida and Georgia to the southern Appalachians, claiming that moving the endangered plants is "[e]asy, legal, and cheap." 62 As evidence for the potential success of their project, the authors point to a group of surviving Torreya taxifolia conifers along a streamlet in the Biltmore Gardens in North Carolina, thought to have been planted there decades ago by a private party who brought the specimens from Florida. Though the authors concede that the actual effects of assisted migration on the recipient environment will only become apparent once the process is carried out, they rely on the judgments of others with long associations with the plant to support the claim that it will not become noxious to its recipient ecosystem, and may even provide important shading along streams. After publishing this advocacy piece, the authors created Torreya Guardians, and they have translocated seedlings of Torreya taxifolia a number of times, claiming these translocations were a success.

— Alejandro E. Camacho 2010
"Assisted Migration: Redefining Nature and Natural Resource Law Under Climate Change"
Yale Journal on Regulation

* * * * *

"One amateur group, the Torreya Guardians, are attempting to 'rewild' the endangered Florida torreya, a conifer tree. Native only to a 65-kilometer length of the Apalachicola River, it began to decline in the 1950s, probably because of fungal pathogens, and is thought to be 'left behind' in a habitat hole that has prevented its migration northward. A few dozen seedlings were planted on private land near Waynesville, N.C., last July, with more expected."

— David Appell 2009
"Can "Assisted Migration" Save Species from Global Warming?"
Scientific American

* * * * *

Access the full set of MEDIA CLIPS
mentioning Torreya Guardians



Table of Contents (internally linked)

Early History and Cumulative Actions

Summary of Seed Distributions & Seed Source Documentation

Volunteer Torreya Guardians

Complete List of INSTITUTIONS receiving seeds/seedlings via Torreya Guardians

RECORD OF ADVOCACY and Communications (chronological, with links to online documents)

Torreya Guardians Interactions with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Roster of Original Discussants and Advisors (2002 to 2008)

Archived Documents of Early Roots of Torreya Guardians (2002 to 2008)

Torreya Guardians in the Media (complete list, linked with excerpts)


Torreya Guardians documenting growth
at the mature grove, Biltmore Gardens NC



Early History and Cumulative Actions

   VIDEO: Early history of Torreya Guardians (by Lee Barnes)

Lee Barnes is a founding Torreya Guardian, with the longest tenure of work with Torreya taxifolia. From 1981-85 his graduate research entailed advanced propagation techniques for three endangered plants in Torreya State Park of Florida — Torreya among them. Here Lee speaks of his research, his early role in securing Torreya seeds for distribution to volunteer planters, and his broader frame of biodiversity-centric life work. Lee confirms that North Carolina is excellent habitat for this Florida species — and that it is crucial to experiment with plantings much farther north as climate continues to change. Click for Lee Barnes' PhD thesis re Torreya.


   

ABOVE: Three popular magazines reported on the earliest efforts by Torreya Guardians:

• The 2008 Orion article sets the Torreya effort within the contentious early years of the "assisted migration" debate.

• A 2009 article in North Carolina Wildlife features the 2008 plantings in North Carolina by Torreya Guardians, along with comments by several scientists. Access online: digital magazine archive, or PDF.

• The 2010 Audubon article includes onsite reporting and photography of our July 2008 planting of 31 potted seedlings into forested habitat ("rewilding") near Waynesville, NC.


VIDEO: Site Visits to Florida's Endangered Torreya and Yew Trees

   Connie Barlow presents 15 years of baseline photos and videos she recorded of Torreya taxifolia and Taxus floridana in their historically native range in Torreya State Park in northern Florida. Photos of spectacular California Torreya trees, recorded by Barlow in 2005, show the potential for Florida Torreya recovery efforts to strive for. Fred Bess shows (in 2014 video) 2 Asian conifers (Cephalotaxus and Cunninghamia) used in landscaping that are Torreya look-alikes. Paleoecological evidence that Florida's Torreya was "left behind" in its peak glacial refuge supports "assisted migration" actions.
NOTE: This is episode 17 in an ongoing VIDEO series of Torreya Guardians actions.


SITE VISITS TO MATURE REPRODUCTIVE GROVES
of Florida Torreya in North Carolina

  

A tremendous amount can be learned about the growth habits and ecological interactions of Florida torreya by visiting the two mature groves of this species — both in the mountains of western North Carolina. The 90-year-old grove near Highlands NC and the 80-year-old grove at Biltmore Gardens near Asheville NC both not only reproduce but also have naturalized seedlings nearby.

Access both the Highlands and the Biltmore videos via our VIDEO webpage.

Photo left, Highlands, includes Torreya Guardian Jack Johnston.

Photo left, Biltmore, includes Torreya Guardian Michael Dowd.

Connie Barlow co-led and filmed both site visits (in 2015 and 2016, respectively).

ACCESS WEBPAGE OF ALL POLEWARD GROVES: "Long-Term Experiments in Assisted Migration"


SITE VISITS TO CALIFORNIA TORREYA HABITATS

      In 2005, Connie Barlow visited Torreya californica growing in the wilds of Yosemite National Park (far left), Sequoia National Park (near left), northwest of Napa Valley, and north of Santa Cruz.

Her photos, written observations, and SUMMARY VIDEOS can be accessed here: California Torreya webpage.

That experience of natural habitat and ecological capabilities of Florida Torreya's close cousin led Connie in 2015 to create a highly illustrated webpage that poses this question: "Could Florida Torreya take the place of Eastern Hemlock?. (Several people before Connie had posed this question, but nobody had yet written an advocacy piece.)

Torreya and Tsuga have similar growth habits and habitat preferences. Notably, both are shade-tolerant evergreens and compete well on steep ravine slopes. Hemlocks are ecologically valued in eastern deciduous forests for their ability to shade (and thus keep cool) streams in early spring, prior to deciduous canopy leaf flush. But the exotic adelgid insect is extirpating hemlocks from the eastern USA. Could our native Torreya species in the eastern USA help to re-establish that stream-side ecological function?

   UPDATE: In 2018, Connie Barlow organized her 2005 photos of California Torreya into a narrated video, with lessons applicable toward developing best practices for assisting Florida Torreya in migrating north:

VIDEO 23: Florida Torreya's California Cousin Has Clues for Ex Situ Plantings

Part 1 (25 minutes)   •   Part 2 (27 minutes)


Summary of Seed Distributions & Seed Source Documentation

Our first action was to acquire and distribute 110 seeds donated by Biltmore Gardens (Asheville, North Carolina) in 2005, 200 seeds donated in 2007, and 300 seeds donated in 2009. Visible success began in summer 2008, when we planted 31 seedlings into semi-wild forest near Waynesville NC. (The potted seedlings were legally purchased at Woodlanders Nursery, Aiken SC, and transported by one of our volunteers in his truck to North Carolina.) All of these actions were in support of "species rescue." Since then, our choices in planting, hypotheses testing, and citizen science contributions entail at least six topical concerns:
  • Species rescue (beyond the geographically limited efforts under the U.S. Endangered Species Act)
  • Ascertaining preferred habitats (slope, aspect, soil, shade, microclimate, plant associates, etc.)
  • Developing best practices for propagation, nurturance, and rewilding
  • Ascertaining northern-most ranges in anticipation of ongoing climate change
  • Assessing Torreya's contributions to ecosystem services
  • Methods for recruiting volunteers, networking, data gathering, reporting results

  • MAP of SEED PLANTERS: As of 2018, Torreya Guardians has donated seeds or seedlings to RECRUITED PLANTERS on private properties in 12 states. BOTANICAL GARDENS receiving seeds through Torreya Guardians include: Morton (IL), Secrest* and Dawes* (OH), Yew Dell (KY), Corneille Bryan* and Raulston (NC), Birmingham Botanical (AL). Note: * indicates videos of Torreya in these gardens can be accessed on our video page.

    STATE-BY-STATE photo-rich webpages of our most successful plantings:

    North CarolinaTennesseeOhioGeorgiaFloridaMichigan

    MAP of SEED PRODUCTION: Torreya Guardians has documented current, extirpated, and our own SEED PRODUCTION at the sites shown on the map.


    Volunteer Torreya Guardians

       CONNIE BARLOW: The final 10 minutes of an hour-long VIDEO REPORT in 2015 summarizes 4 primary types of EXPERIMENTS our group is undertaking: (1) planting and nurturing full-sun "orchards" aimed at maximizing early growth and seed production; (2) exploring for northern range limits where Torreya can survive and/or thrive in today's climate; (3) discerning habitat preferences at various latitudes; and (4) searching for sites and modes of planting that require the least amount of post-planting intervention for success.

    CONNIE BARLOW QUOTES from 2009 article by Sidney Cruze, in North Carolina Wildlife Magazine: "Rewilding a Native", in digital magazine archive, or PDF:

    ... "Torreya is really a symbol of the increasingly difficult decisions conservationists will face as they try to decide what is native and what interventions will be used to preserve this biodiversity," Barlow says.

    ... "I wanted to move the debate forward and provide a model for citizen naturalists, even those who disagree, to prove you don't have to be an expert to do something useful. It is possible to take action on behalf of one species."

    ... Barlow is well aware of the potential for such ecological disaster, yet she still believes that rewilding Torreya in North Carolina is the right thing to do. "It's not introducing a new species, but returning a deep-time native to the state," she says.

    ... For her, it all comes down to a commitment to save this prehistoric species. "If this is really what this tree needs, and it works, I will be able to help a species with tremendously ancient roots to survive."

    VOLUNTEERS with experimental and field experience:

    • ORCHARD PLANTING (full sun) - Jack Johnston (GA), Russ Regnery (NC); Lamar Marshall (NC)

    • ROOTING BRANCHLETS & APICAL BASALS - Clint Bancroft (TN); Jack Johnston (GA); Jeff Morris (NC)

    • RAPID SEED PRODUCTION: Jeff Morris (NC); Fred Bess (OH)

    • NORTHERN RANGE LIMITS - Fred Bess (OH); Daein Ballard (NH); Paul Camire (MI); Mike Heim (WI)

    • HABITAT PREFERENCES - Connie Barlow (maintains our Learnings and Propagation webpages); Lee Barnes (NC); Dawes Arboretum (OH)

    • FREE PLANTING (least intervention) - Chris Anderson (TN); Bob Miller (OH); Nelson Stover (NC); Chris Larson (FL); Connie Barlow pools results in our Freeplanting webpage

    • MAXIMIZING GENETIC DIVERSITY IN FOREST PLANTING GROVE - Clint Bancroft (TN)

    • DOCUMENTING SITES OF MATURE TREES - illustrated and summarized webpage: Historic Groves

    Full list in PDF - Paul Camire

    Harbison House, Highlands NC - Jack Johnston, Clint Bancroft, Lee Barnes, and Connie Barlow

    Biltmore Gardens, Asheville NC - Lee Barnes and Connie Barlow

    Clinton, NC - Connie Barlow, Jeff Morris, and Joe Facendola

    Cincinnati, OH - Fred Bess

    Gladwynne, PA - Paul Camire

    Columbus, GA - Clint Bancroft, Jack Johnston, Connie Barlow

    Madison, FL - Clint Bancroft

    Saline, LA - Connie Barlow and Clint Bancroft


    Complete List of INSTITUTIONS receiving seeds/seedlings via Torreya Guardians

    ALABAMA
  • Longleaf Botanical Garden (Anniston, AL)
  • Kaul Wildflower Garden of Birmingham Botanical Garden (Birmingham, AL)
  • Dr. Lawana Adcock-Downey, University of Alabama Huntsville (Huntsville, AL)

    ILLINOIS

  • Morton Arboretum (Chicago, IL)

    KENTUCKY

  • Yew Dell Gardens (Crestwood, KY)
  • Arboretum of the State Botanical Garden of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)

    MASSACHUSETTS

  • Polly Hill Arboretum (Martha's Vineyard, MA)

    NORTH CAROLINA

  • Carolinas chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation
  • Tessentee Bottomland Preserve of the Land Trust of the Little Tennessee River (Otto and Franklin, NC)
  • Highlands Biological Station and Highlands Botanical Garden (Highlands, NC)
  • Southern Highlands Reserve (Lake Toxaway, NC)
  • Corneille Bryan Native Plant Garden, Lake Junaluska, NC)
  • North Carolina Bartram Trail Society
  • Duke University Gardens
  • Meredith College (Raleigh NC)
  • University of North Carolina, Charlotte
  • J.C. Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)

    OHIO

  • U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station (Delaware OH)
  • Dawes Arboretum (Neward OH)
  • Secrest Arboretum, affiliated with Ohio State University (Wooster OH)

    SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Chattooga Riverkeeper
  • Spartanburg Community College Arboretum

    TENNESSEE

  • University of Tennessee Arboretum
  • Tennesseee Chapter of the Sierra Club (seeds went to 4 members)

    VIRGINIA

  • Valley Conservation Council (Staunton, VA)


    Record of Advocacy and Communications
    (chronological list focuses on written documentation accessible online)

    BEGINNINGS OF AN IDEA (1999): On a visit to Torreya State Park in quest of "ecological anachronisms" during field research for her 4th published book, science writer Connie Barlow encountered the stragglers of Florida Torreya still in the park, along with pickled Torreya seeds in the park office. This venture is described, and translocation advocacy initiated, in her 2001 book and Arnoldia article (see below).

    1. FIRST DOCUMENTATIONS OF TRANSLOCATION IDEA (2001): in a new book and a journal article by Connie Barlow

    The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms, by Connie Barlow, 2001 (Basic Books)

       BARLOW WRITES: "My 1999 visit to Torreya State Park and subsequent ruminations appear on pages 229-231."

    EXCERPT: ... In a study of endangered species published in 2000, Rob Channell and Mark Lomolino concluded that "most species examined persist in the periphery of their historical geographic ranges." The implication is that the last place a troubled species is found may not, in fact, be the best place to assist its recovery. Transplantation is an uncommon and controversial technique for biodiversity conservation today. But after the greenhouse effect has ratcheted up temperatures and rerouted rainfall, it surely will become the norm. If gardening a few local patches of endangered plants is tough today, it's going to get a lot tougher when, like it or not, we become gardeners of the planet. Helping plants track climate change from one patch of forest to another will be a routine tactic for conserving biodiversity decades hence. Is it too early to begin now with Florida torreya?

    "Anachronistic Fruits and the Ghosts Who Haunt Them, by Connie Barlow, 2001, Arnoldia pp. 14-21. (Also via Researchgate.)

    BARLOW WRITES: "Arnoldia editor Peter del Tredici asked me to write this article, which focuses far more on the fruit characteristics and paleohistory of genus Torrreya than does the 2004 paper by Barlow and Martin, which is the most cited. The last section of this article, pages 19-21, present an exclusive focus on torreya."

       EXCERPTS: "... The proximate cause of Torreya taxifoha's imminent extinction, and thus the cause that gets all the attention, is disease. Some thirty pathogens are known to infest it, but no single disease seems to be the culprit.... The genus Torreya was once distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Range fragmentation has created distinct species in eastern China, patches of the Coast Range and the Sierras of California, and the Apalachicola of Florida. During the coldest times of the Pleistocene, the Apalachicola, with its moderate climate and rich soils, was a refuge for the trees and forbs that now enrich the Cove Hardwood forest of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 375 miles (600 km) to the north. After the ice retreated, most of the plants hitched rides from wind and animals and moved back north to their pre-glacial home. Torreya seems to have been left behind.... Global or regional extinction of an animal partner (or partners) may be the root cause of the tree's current distress. Torreya is probably not ideally suited for the warmth and humidity of today's Apalachicola region. It wants to head north, but it hasn’t found a vehicle....

    "... Squirrels that fed on torreya seeds on the east side of the river would be unable to carry them across water to the west side, and if the rich soils of the Apalachicola are isolated from rich soils to the north by a barrier of sandy soils, then the squirrels would also be unable to disperse the seeds farther north. Squirrels may thus be a disperser, but they apparently are not the right disperser for helping this tree reclaim its pre-glacial range. This explanation would account for the seemingly paradoxical fact that until the 1950s, florida torreya was the seventh most abundant tree species in an astonishingly small patch of 'native' habitat.
         "Perhaps the best evidence that florida torreya may be suffering from an mability to track climate change is that before the blight took hold, this tree was planted hundreds of miles north of its Florida habitat in the mountains of North Carolina, near Asheville. There, on the Biltmore Estate, the torreyas are thriving, and the females produce abundant seeds. 'Flower beds often abound with seedlings planted by squirrels,'reports Bill Alexander, landscape historian at the Biltmore. During his 23 years there, Alexander has watched the torreyas stand up well to a five-year drought. And in the winter of 1985 the thermometer plunged to minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit, yet 'our trees smiled right through,' he told me.
         "For a number of years, Alexander had been thinking that 'florida' torreya really belonged back in North Carolina. So he was delighted to hear of the lost disperser theory. A megafaunal ghost? If so, the ghost may well be a large extinct tortoise, I suggested, as reptiles are far more tolerant of plant terpenes than are mammals, and as the thin 'shell' protecting the large single seed of this conifer offers scant protection against molars.
         "One must not, however, ponder the plight of the florida torreya in isolation from its sister species. In contrast to Torreya taxifolia, California's torreya (Torreya californica) is maintaining its population, as are the several Asian species of Torreya — all of which bear nearly identical propagules. Nevertheless, all occupy restricted geographic ranges. What if the entire genus lost its key dispersers and now depends on the local activities of squirrels? Bill Alexander and I easily came up with two plausible explanations for the differences in endangerment, based strictly on geographic differences. In eastern North America, the climatic effects of the Ice Sheet reached much farther south than was the case in either western North America or eastern Asia, forcing the Appalachian species to take refuge at a lower latitude. Perhaps even more significant is that latitudinal migration was the only option for florida torreya as the climate warmed. In contrast, torreya species in California and in Asia could head upslope. These torreyas are native to mountainous regions, where altitudinal gain facilitated by nothing more than squirrels could help the trees keep pace with a warming climate.
         "Such unsubstantiated and untested leaps of speculation are normally not well received within the scientific community — but these are not normal times. Without some drastic breakthrough in the management of Florida's wild population of torreya trees, Torreya taxlfolia will, within fifty years, almost surely be extinct outside of botanical gardens. Perhaps it is time to help this torreya gain rootholds of wild populations in the mountains of North Carolina.
         "Such is not, alas, how things are done with endangered species — the exception being the recent return of the California condor to its Pleistocene home near the Grand Canyon. Native territory is regarded as the last best place to be. But what is 'native'? How far might we justifiably reach back in time for a benchmark? In a study of endangered species published in 2000, Rob Channell and Mark Lomolino concluded that 'most species examined persist in the periphery of their historical geographic ranges.' If habitat at the periphery of historical range is adequate but not ideal, then the last place a troubled species is found may not, in fact, be the best place to assist its recovery.
         "Transplantation across great distances is an uncommon and controversial technique for biodiversity conservation today. But as the greenhouse effect ratchets up temperatures and reroutes rainfall, and as botanical preserves become even more isolated islands in a sea of human development, long-distance transplantation will become the norm. If gardening a few local patches of endangered plants is tough today, it's going to get a lot tougher when, like it or not, we become gardeners of the planet [citation Daniel Janzen, 1998, "Gardenification of wildland nature and the human footprint".] Helping plants track climate change from one patch of habitat to another will be a routine tactic for conserving biodiversity decades hence. Is it too early to begin now with florida torreya?

    2. BOOK BY U. TENN PALYNOLOGIST LINKS EASTERN FOREST PALEOECOLOGY WITH GLOBAL WARMING (2002): Connie Barlow read this book upon publication. Thanks to that reading, Connie's concern for Torreya taxifolia ramped up into a commitment to act.
    Forests in Peril: Tracking Deciduous Trees from Ice Age Refuges into the Greenhouse World, by Hazel Delcourt, 2002

       EXCERPTS: ... "My personal and professional odyssey as a historian of deciduous trees has brought me to the realization that the future of the eastern deciduous forest is now at risk. (p. 97)

    ... We can provide corridors to allow for species to migrate successfully in the face of climate change. We may also need to be prepared to transplant endangered species to new locations where climate will be favorable." (p. 207)

    Note: Delcourt's papers are cited in the 1986 recovery plan for Florida Torreya.
    _____

    BOOK REVIEW by Connie Barlow, published in 2004 issue of Wild Earth.

    Note: An additional 2008 review by Connie Barlow of Forests in Peril, posted on Amazon, documents that this book played a pivotal role in the formation of Torreya Guardians:

    ... This is the book that launched our citizen naturalists group on the internet: Torreya Guardians. In reading Hazel's book, I was struck by how important the "pocket reserves" were to the preservation of rich forest species during the peak of the last glacial episode some 18,000 years ago (as well as all the previous glacial episodes). One of those pocket reserves runs along the edge of the Apalachicola River in the Florida Panhandle. And it is here that the most endangered conifer tree in the world, Torreya taxifolia, is gravely imperiled....
    3. LEE BARNES COLLABORATES (2003): Lee Barnes (resident of Waynesville, NC) did graduate work on Torreya taxifolia in the early 80s at the University of Florida. Indeed, 1986 recovery plan cites his work. Connie met Lee in 2003; they discovered a mutual interest in Florida torreya and the collaboration began. Access Lee's 1985 PhD dissertation: "Clonal Propagation of Endangered Plants: Rhododendron chapmanii, Taxus floridana, and Torreya taxifolia".

    4. CONNIE BARLOW AND LEE BARNES LAUNCH TORREYA DISCUSSION GROUP ONLINE (2004): Earlier e-communications by Connie Barlow and Lee Barnes with Hazel Delcourt, Paul C. Martin, Bill Alexander, Mark Schwartz, and others builds to a point where a YahooGroup list-serve is established by Lee in March 2004. Access the roster of persons involved in the earliest discussions.

    5. EDITOR OF WILD EARTH JOURNAL EXPRESSES INTEREST IN PUBLISHING TORREYA ESSAYS PRO & CON ASSISTED MIGRATION (2004): February initial response arrives from a query sent by Connie to the editor of Wild Earth journal, Josh Brown. His favorable response then shapes the list-serve discussion toward honing ideas and determining potential author interest. Much of this 2004 e-correspondence can be accessed online via (1) Early 2004 Correspondence and (2) Archive of early correspondence and related documents. A later section of this webpage lists and links to archival documents of key online correspondence of more than a dozen distinct titles: Archived Documents of Early Roots of Torreya Guardians.

    6. TWO PAPERS (ONE PRO AND ONE CON) ASSISTED MIGRATION PUBLISHED IN WILD EARTH (WINTER 2004/2005): When it became obvious that the discussants could not agree on a path of advocacy and action, Connie Barlow and Paul S. Martin co-wrote their own pro-action proposal and submitted it to the editor of Wild Earth journal (Barlow and Martin had each published in that journal previously). A contrary perspective by Mark Schwartz was simultaneously submitted. All three authors read and critiqued each other's draft papers, communicated, and then the final versions were published as poles in the "Forum" section of the WINTER 2004/05 issue of the journal. In that same issue, Barlow also published a review of the 2002 book (by paleoecologist Hazel Delcourt; listed below) that solidified her sense of Florida Torreya as a glacial relict and thus prompted her to launch these discussions and eventually the founding of Torreya Guardians. Note: In 2010, Connie published her eulogy to Paul S. Martin, which contains many reflections on their conversations leading up to their 2004 Torreya advocacy piece.

    "Forum" (both articles in a single pdf)

    "Bring Torreya taxifolia North — Now", by Connie Barlow and Paul S. Martin

    "Conservationists Should Not Move Torreya taxifolia", by Mark Schwartz

    "Forests in Peril", review by Connie Barlow of 2002 book by Hazel Delcourt, Forests in Peril: Tracking Deciduous Trees from Ice-Age Refuges into the Greenhouse World"

    7. ASSISTED MIGRATION SCHOLARLY LINKS (2007 webpage): In order to keep track of the sudden rush of papers (along with news reports) on the "assisted migration" controversy, Connie Barlow initiated a webpage of Assisted Migration Scholarly Links. Visitors to that increasingly massive page are helped by a linked list of internal sections by topic, and the format allows for internal word searches to assist with web-based scholarly research.

    8. "TORREYA GUARDIANS" ACTIONS BECOME NEWSWORTHY (2008 - 2010): Lee Barnes had begun acquiring seeds from Biltmore Gardens autumn 2005 and distributing the seeds (mostly to established botanical gardens in North Carolina and northward). Our actions became newsworthy in 2008. Orion Magazine was the first to publish an article that featured "Torreya Guardians," while Audubon Magazine sent a journalist onsite to report on our July 2008 planting of 31 potted seedlings in the Waynesville NC area. Both articles can be accessed below (the Audubon article was delayed until 2010).

     ;    • The 2008 Orion article sets the Torreya effort within the contentious early years of the "assisted migration" debate.

    • The 2010 Audubon article includes onsite reporting and photography of our July 2008 planting of 31 potted seedlings into forested habitat ("rewilding") near Waynesville, NC. Jack Johnston played a crucial role in this planting effort, and continued in crucial ways ever after.

      

     ;    • The most in-depth article had limited circulation (mostly just North Carolina), as it had no online presence until recent years. It is the 2009 North Carolina Wildlife article (now available in pdf). In addition to many quotes by early Torreya Guardians volunteers, the article includes historically important quotations by Biltmore Forest Historian Bill Alexander and botanists/horticulturalists Peter White, Rob Nicholson, and Mark Schwartz.   

    9. TORREYA CHAPTER IN EARTH ETHICS BOOK (2009)

       "Deep Time Lags: Lessons from Pleistocene Ecology"

    by Connie Barlow, 2009, (9 pp. pdf)

    is Chapter 10 in Gaia in Turmoil: Climate Change, Biodepletion, and Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis

    Eileen Crist and Brruce Rinker, eds., MIT Press

    10. COMMENTS ON ESA 2010 RECOVERY PLAN UPDATE (2010): USF&WS staff person Vivian Negron-Ortiz invited Torreya Guardians to use a conference call phone line to express our views during a meeting of the official Advisory Board for Florida Torreya, in which Negron-Ortiz would solicit responses to questions she devised in advance. CONNIE BARLOW was joined in that phone call by one of our Torreya planters in North Carolina: RUSSELL REGNERY. Barlow followed up with written comments, and by recruiting several professionals (Sara Reichard and Josh Donlan) to file comments. A webpage provides links to all written comments by or in behalf of Torreya Guardians, and also to the original (1986) and updated (2010) ESA recovery plans.

    The resulting recovery plan 2010 update mentions Torreya Guardians in three places:

    p. 18 "Foster a working partnership between the Torreya Guardians, the Service, and other interested parties to help direct their managed relocation efforts."

    p. 5 [listed within "Recovery Action 1: Protect existing habitat"] The Torreya Guardians, created in 2004, translocated seedlings of T. taxifolia outside of the species native habitat (two sites in North Carolina mountains). One of the identified goals of their intentional assisted migration was to save T. taxifolia from extinction (http://www.torreyaguardians.org/save.html).

    p. 9 [listed within "Recovery Action 5: Establish experimental collections of torreya outside its native habitat"] "In 1939 nearly a dozen specimens of T. taxifolia were planted at the Biltmore Gardens; 31 seedlings were planted in 2008 at two locations near Waynesville; and 10 seedlings were planted at Bt. Highlands and Franklin (http://www.torreyaguardians.org/north-carolina.html)."

    The final paragraph of the 2010 update does mention translocation, but within the bounds set by the advisory committee:
    p. 19: "Translocation (introduction of a species to a site outside the known historical range), could offer a best management option if the site provides the only place safe from the threats that brought the species to endangerment, and should only be considered if it can be shown that there is a net gain for the species conservation, i.e., recovery unit. This management option should be carefully evaluated, and planning should be done with the very best biological science. If a population has been already translocated, it could potentially be evaluated as an experimental population.

    11. "PALEOECOLOGY AND THE ASSISTED MIGRATION DEBATE" (2010): Because Connie Barlow was disappointed in the 2010 Recovery Plan update's failure to initiate official experiments in northward assisted migration, and because there appeared to be a retrenchment in consideration of T. taxfolia as a glacial relict after this species was declared an endangered relict in 1984, Barlow created (and periodically updates) a webpage setting forth the elements of a paleoecological argument for moving Florida Torreya poleward: "Paleoecology and the Assisted Migration Debate: Why a Deep-Time Perspective Is Vital".

    12. FORESTRY CHRONICLE REPORTS SCIENCE-BASED DECISION MAKING BY TORREYA GUARDIANS (2011): "Review of science-based assessments of species vulnerability: Contributions to decision-making for assisted migration", by Tannis Beardmore and Richard Winder, December 2011, Forestry Chronicle (Canadian) provides the most detailed academic review to date of the impetus for citizen volunteers in moving Florida Torreya north. The Torreya section includes this table and the text below it.

    Ecological standards for assisted migration developed for Torreya taxifolia.
        The Torreya Guardians are a volunteer conservation group consisting of botanists, naturalists, and citizens with an interest in conserving Florida Torreya (Torreya taxifolia Arn.). This group has four primary goals: (1) to save this species from extinction; (2) to test the utility of assisted migration for this and other threatened plant species; (3) to provide a model for possible activities to help mitigate the impacts of climate change; and (4) to foster collaborations with the public and appropriate professions (Torreya Guardians 2004). Florida Torreya is a small tree in the yew family (Taxaceae) with a very limited range in the southeastern United States; it is native to Georgia and Florida. Florida Torreya is federally listed as critically endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1986). Within its native range, this species has been decimated by a fungal disease (Godfrey and Kurz 1962) reported to be a novel species of Fusarium (Smith et al. 2011), which remains the largest threat to this species' survival.
         The Torreya Guardians developed "Ecological Standards" as a tool for assessing vulnerability, identifying whether this species was at risk, and determining if assisted migration was an appropriate mitigation strategy (Tables 1 and 2). To assess vulnerability, two factors are used: "neediness" and "irreversible problems". The assessment identifies whether the species is endangered, and whether ecological or climate change is a major threat. Four factors then consider whether assisted migration is appropriate (Table 2), including considerations pertaining to historical information, evaluation of whether assisted migration will decrease the risk of extirpation or introduce new threats to the recipient areas, and determination of whether unassisted migration is still feasible.
         The Torreya Guardians identified Florida Torreya as being highly vulnerable and incorporated this information into their management plans, where they have developed and implemented assisted migration as a conservation strategy using their own resources (Torreya Guardians 2004). They have established plantings of trees across a 600-km range, predominantly in the southern Appalachians, using readily available seed stock (Camacho 2010). This material is being planted on private lands, with full support of the landowners. Thus, there is no involvement of government oversight, nor has it been legally mandated.
         There have been concerns that limited biological information has been used in this assessment and that assisted migration may result in unintended negative ecological consequences (McMahan 1989). These concerns include the introduction of non-native species and their potential to become invasive. However, no negative ecological consequences have been identified. This group has created an extensive online information resource for their activities (Torreya Guardians 2011), which was most likely used to assist in this decision-making process. This work has raised important questions concerning the level of information needed to determine the level of a species' vulnerability to climate change. Furthermore, how does one address the absence of information in the presence of uncertainty? Please see the papers by Aubin et al., Ste-Marie et al. and Winder et al. in this issue that further discuss these issues.
        This example of assisted migration has raised the issue of authorization and oversight as the official federal recovery plan does not identify assisted migration as a conservation strategy for Florida Torreya. The momentum that this group has created resulted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considering whether assisted migration is an appropriate strategy for this species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2010). It is yet to be seen if official plans will include a more thorough assessment of the ecological impacts of assisted migration, or more extensive monitoring programs. Nonetheless, this is a very interesting example of how a grassroots organization can propel assisted migration into the forefront, causing a governmental agency to consider the use of this strategy.

    13. BARLOW POSTS COMMENTS AND OFFERS RECOMMENDATIONS ON "MANAGED RELOCATION" PAPER (2012): 31 academic scientists publish a report on "managed relocation" of species, following 4 years of study: "Managed Relocation: Integrating the Scientific, Regulatory, and Ethical Challenges" by Mark W. Schwartz et al., BioScience, August 2012 (12 pp in pdf). This group of scientists originally assembled at the 2008 meeting of the Ecological Society of America to explore the topic of assisted migration of species in a time of rapid climate change. Torreya Guardians efforts are mentioned in the report, and the lead author (Mark W. Schwartz) is himself an expert on Torreya. Because this paper was likely to confer strong policy guidance, Connie Barlow posted COMMENTS and RECOMMENDATIONS on the Torreya Guardians website.

    EXCERPTS OF BARLOW COMMENTS: The August 2012 paper by Mark W. Scwhartz and 30 coauthors (Managed Relocation Working Group) published in BioScience is a superb review paper and exceedingly helpful for its thorough citations. As to policy conclusions that the diverse group of authors could agree on, below are the aspects of the paper that I found most helpful (followed by my recommendation for future work by the group).
        ...In contrast, two of our project sites (Waynesville and Junaluska NC) introduced specimens into semi-wild deciduous-canopy forested habitats, in which a hands-off approach (after initial post-planting watering) is the management norm. The reason? Our aim is to discover which elevations, aspects, slopes, hydrology, associated species, etc. are Torreya's preferred habitat conditions. Thus, when our May 2012 monitoring of these two sites began to yield important data indicative of distinct habitat preferences (and habitat stressors), we did not intervene to "help" the struggling or dying specimens. Indeed, we were excited to discover that an oak-hickory canopy with associated dry-adapted species (sassafras and flame azalea) are very stressful, even lethal, to Torreya taxifolia. In contrast, moist deciduous indicator species were the plants associated with specimens that were doing the best. Please access our monitoring report: "What We Are Learning About Torreya's Habitat Preferences".
         A second reason why the 2012 paper's definition of "assisted migration" does not accurately depict the intentions of what we at Torreya Guardians are doing is that, with respect to our particular species, the core group of activists and private landowners believe that our actions are simply assisting this species in mirroring the natural northward migrations it is reasonably assumed to have undertaken in sync with the onset and intensification of previous interglacial episodes of climate warming during the Pleistocene. T. taxifolia's "historic native range" is, after all, also known to be a well-established "pocket glacial refugium," and thus it served as a vitally important refuge for eastern deciduous forest species at the peak of each glacial episode. That is why the late Paul S. Martin (Pleistocene ecologist) depicted Torreya taxifolia as having been "left behind in near time." See our 2004 paper on this topic, "Bring Torreya Taxifolia North — Now".
         What the word "migration" thus means in this context is not the annual migration of seasonally resident animal species but the epochal movements of the species at the timescale of Milankovitch cycles. By using the term "migration" to depict what we are are assisting Torreya in doing, rather than "colonization" or "relocation," we hope that regional residents near our project sites will be able to grasp that we are simply assisting this endangered species in doing what it naturally has done in previous warming periods. The term "assisted migration" thus has a far less interventionist aura to it than does the hegemonic feel of "colonization" or "relocation."
         ... In my view, until conservation biologists and managers and the public at large are given an opportunity to reflect on how long-lived species and genera of plants (such as Torreya) have indeed had to migrate long distances in the past, this issue of "managed relocation" will continue to foment more discord than necessary. We must cast what we are doing (or thinking about doing) not in the light of purely artificial intrusions in natural ecological dynamics but rather as necessary assistance in helping plants do what they have naturally done over the course of millennia and millions of years.
         Indeed, I would not have initiated the Torreya Guardians movement simply on the basis of experiencing the species as doomed and feeling sorry for it; a deep-time paleoecological perspective (which I gained largely thanks to Paul S. Martin and Hazel Delcourt) was the crucial impetus moving me into action. My sense was that the managers and ecologists in charge of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) management of Torreya taxifolia lacked this perspective, and thus would continue to constrict their management focus exclusively to the ever-degrading "historic range" in Florida. Sadly, this proved to be true: In June 2010 Torreya Guardians were the only participants to vote "Yes," when the USF&WS staffer in charge of the ESA management plan update for T. taxifolia asked the gathered advisors whether a "pilot project" to test planting Torreya taxifolia to the north of its historic range should be added to the management plan. (You can access ours and other comments via: http://www.torreyaguardians.org/esa-recovery-plan.html.)
         ... I have yet to hear any professional ecologist, horticulturalist, botanist, or similar professional who is familiar with Torreya taxifolia and/or with southern Appalachian forest ecologies express any real concern [about Torreya's possible invasiveness within a recipient ecosystem]. One need only look at the existing translocations of this species in which seed production has been occurring for decades (the Biltmore Estate, Clinton NC, Highlands NC) to conclude that this large-seeded plant can't disperse any farther in a generation (roughly 20-30 years in the wild) than the distance a squirrel is inclined to bury seed from the parent plant. More, if it were to become invasive, all specimens could easily be removed by hand, especially since they do not spread by root runners. This contention is supported, in the abstract, by a 2007 paper that concluded that north-south translocations of terrestrial (nonaquatic) species in eastern North America pose little threat of invasiveness: Jillian M. Mueller and Jessica J. Hellmann, "An Assessment of Invasion Risk from Assisted Migration" Conservation Biology, 28 June 2007. [Barlow comments at: http://www.torreyaguardians.org/barlow-2010.pdf]
         ... While it is understandable that many environmental activists working to reduce the global carbon footprint would still be hesitant to acquiesce to any "adaptation" strategy regarding biodiversity preservation, and why the public educated about the dangers of "invasive species" would naturally be wary of the de facto pilot project being undertaken openly and with as much scientific rigor as we Torreya Guardians can muster (as volunteers with no financial assistance), it seems that the 31 coauthors of the BioScience paper could easily take additional steps to bring some commonsense understandings to the debate. Perhaps the most important additional task the group could easily take on would be to construct a table of nuanced definitions for what is meant by "native habitat" or "historic habitat."
         Paul Martin's and my 2004 paper included an appendix, where we offered proposed "Standards for Assisted Migration of Plants". At the bottom of that short list, we offered some short definitions, which would be a place for the MRWG to begin their own assessment:
    DEFINITIONS (from Barlow and Martin 2004):
  • Assisted migration - Human actions intended to help a species, subspecies, or population establish and maintain populations in natural life communities outside of its current range.
  • Current range - where the plant is found "in the wild" right now.
  • Historic range - the range of confirmed specimen locations as evidenced by written or other human records.
  • Near-time range - the range of the plant during prehistoric human occupation.
  • Deep-time range - the range of the plant (species or genus) in any time period from its origin to the arrival of the first humans.
  • Target range - the chosen destination(s) for assisted migration, representing (1) future range that will keep apace with climate change, (2) recovery of historic, near-time, or deep-time range or life communities, or (3) a suitable range justified by nothing more than compatibility with the ecological requirements of an imperiled plant and low risk factors of the recipient life community.
  • A table of such definitions would be helpful because I sense that an unnecessary polarity within the working group has developed — between those who want to retain a historic "baseline" approach for biodiversity and ESA management and others who would toss out the idea of baseline altogether, and simply assess where in the future species would need to move in order to stay in sync with the movement of its habitat conditions. (See, for example, in 2011 Hellmann and Pfrender concluded, ". . .  we can no longer look to the past for guidance on how an ecosystem is supposed to be.")

    14. PAPER CONFIRMS TORREYA GUARDIANS ACTIONS ARE LEGAL (2013): Although Connie Barlow received e-confirmation 22 July 2004 from then-ESA-staffer Stan Simpkins (see pp. 22-23 of this pdf), publication of a paper by Patrick D. Shirey et al. gave her solid grounding to step out more in publicly communicating the seed distribution and planting efforts of Torreya Guardians. Apparently, the Endangered Species Act was intentionally written with an exception for plants (but not for animals). See "Commercial Trade of Federally Listed Threatened and Endangered Plants in the United States", by Patrick D. Shirey et al., 2013, Conservation Letters.

    15. REVIEW PAPER IN FORESTRY JOURNAL INCLUDES TORREYA GUARDIANS (2013):
       Connie Barlow learns that, while conservation biology journals have been featuring debate and discussion, professional foresters have been moving ahead with delineating the need for and experimenting with assisted migration of trees. Crucially, foresters make a 3-fold distinction in the types of assisted migration, with the "assisted species migration" (a.k.a. "species rescue") being the most radical. The actions taken by Torreya Guardians made Florida Torreya the type-case example of the latter. Connie begins to network with forestry research professionals.

    ABOVE: "Preparing for Climate Change: Forestry and Assisted Migration", by Mary Williams and Kasten Dumroese, 2013, Journal of Forestry.

    16. VIDEO DOCUMENTATION INITIATED (2013): Immediately following publication of the Shirey et al. paper (above), Connie Barlow created and posted on youtube her first Torreya video, this one serving as an introduction to the paleoecological arguments for moving Florida Torreya north, a summary of actions to date, along with highlighting key sections of the Shirey et al. paper confirming the legality of our efforts. As of the end of 2020, the series includes 34 video episodes, most of which center on field documentation — as video footage enables armchair viewers to formulate their own interpretations and to do so for many years ahead. All videos are listed, annotated, and linked from our Torreya VIDEOS webpage. Note: Connie Barlow initiated in January 2014 another tree-centric video series posted on youtube: "Climate, Trees, and Legacy". In the first episode, Introduction, Connie reflects on how her experience with helping Florida Torreya move north grounds her field research and advocacy for expanding climate-responsive "assisted migration" poleward for even common, native trees of North America. The Torreya Guardians section begins at timecode 14:41.

    17. INCOMPATIBILITY CONTINUES BETWEEN TORREYA GUARDIANS AND ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT OFFICIALS (2014): Written correspondence initiated by Connie Barlow confirms that incompatible views are still present between Torreya Guardians and both the USF&WS staff person in charge of Torreya taxifolia (Vivian Negron-Ortiz) and a key scientist working within the recovery plan in the 1990s (Mark Schwartz). Excerpt of Mark Schwartz 2 September 2014 email response to Barlow:"...I have spoken to a number of USFWS about assisted migration and the hesitancy on the part of the agency is, as I see it, not about climate politics or climate deniers. In fact experimental populations have been established outside historic ranges, albeit not necessarily based on a climate futures model. However, the TG rewilding is not based on that either, as best I can tell. My sense is that it is about limited capacity and drivers of extinction risk. The application of the ESA has been focused on extinction prevention, and not on restoring ecological relevant populations. Hence, Torreya would not be a priority as it is not high on the list of species likely to go extinct soon."

    18. BARLOW INVITED TO SPEAK ON ASSISTED MIGRATION AT MICHIGAN TECH SCHOOL OF FORESTRY (2015): VIDEO: Foresters Outpace Conservation Biologists in Climate Adaptation

       The "assisted migration" ongoing project of Torreya Guardians is regularly cited in academic literature on climate adaptation controversies in biodversity and ecosystems protection. Here, Connie Barlow presents the first (highly illustrated) talk to professionals. Speaking to faculty and students at Michigan Technological University's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Barlow presents the history of the "assisted migration" controversy — highlighting the reasons why foresters have already taken actions where conservation biologists fear to tread. (filmed Sept 11, 2015)

    Note: This video is episode 08 in an ongoing video series by Barlow on forestry and climate adaptation. See an annotated list of titles and links to all such videos here: "CLIMATE, TREES, and LEGACY".

    19. TENNESSEE CHAPTER OF SIERRA CLUB POSTS TORREYA GUARDIANS ARTICLE IN NEWSLETTER (2015): The Sept-Oct 2015 newsletter of the Tennes-Sierran newsletter contains an article soliciting volunteers in Tennessee to begin planting Torreya taxifolia seeds in their state. Click the image left and then scroll down the online pdf to page 8 in order to read the full article.

       Nov 2017 update: Thanks to the Sierra Club newsletter, a new volunteer on the Cumberland Plateau free-planted 400 seeds in Nov 2015.

    Two years later, Connie Barlow visited his in-forest plantings, took photos and video, and posted this ongoing report: Torreya Rewilded to Cumberland Plateau, TN.

    20. 2018 a DIFFICULT YEAR, 4 REASONS:

    (1) Georgia and Florida institutions that are officially authorized to implement species recovery held an invitation-only Torreya Symposium the first week in March. Absent any public comment opportunity, the University of Florida issued a press release announcing that the symposium result was to declare genetic engineering as the next step.

    (2) Official institutional hostility toward Torreya Guardians, plus the genetic engineering announcement (above) led Torreya Guardian Connie Barlow to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) data request for documentation of seed production from the two ex-situ plantings in northern Georgia (and seed "ultimate destinations") from 2007 through 2017. As she expected, the results were that there was no documentation of numbers or destinations for (what we Torreya Guardians know to be) thousands of seeds produced annually at each site.

    (3) Barlow had hoped to use the FOIA outcome to leverage communications with USF&WS staff and Atlanta Botanical Garden. She even offered both, what she considered to be, a "win-win" proposal for moving forward. She got no response. She summarizes the effort in her closing statement to the FOIA office.

    (4) Accordingly, Barlow moved into a "dark night of the soul" where she placed her own experience as a citizen having to fight for a listed species against authorized institutions — at least one of which has announced interest in subjecting it to genetic engineering, with no opportunity for public comment nor interest in finding a mutual solution with citizen volunteers. Fortunately, the effort of placing Torreya Guardians' difficulties within the context of the Endangered Species Act as a whole led her to several insights by which implementation of the Act could be opened to more citizen engagement, perhaps benefiting other plant species too. She filed her recommendations as a personal comment during the September 2018 official reconsideration of governmental regulations for implementing the Act.

    21. BARLOW FILES COMMENTS RE AUGUST 2018 F&WS INITIATION OF RECOVERY PLAN UPDATE

    October 2018 Barlow submits comments for consideration during the official recovery plan updating by F&WS staff. She LINKED TO 3 KEY PAGES on the Torreya Guardians website: "Historic Groves of Torreya Trees"; "What We Are Learning"; and "Recent Papers on Stem Canker". She also made "4 REQUESTS": (1) Add Barlow to the official Advisory Committee for this species; (2) Inform advisors of Torreya's history as a "glacial relict"; (3) Document and post 2018 seed production at ex situ locations; and (4) Read Barlow's August 2019 Report to DOI: Volunteer Actions of Torreya Guardians Support New Endangered Species Administrative Policies.

    22. BARLOW FILES REPORT TO DOI: "Volunteer Actions of Torreya Guardians Support New Endangered Species Administrative Policies"

    August 25, 2019, Connie Barlow, as an individual and citizen, submitted a 21-page "Report to Secretary of the Department of Interior and Director of Fish & Wildlife Service: Volunteer Actions of Torreya Guardians Support New Endangered Species Administrative Policies".

      

    TABLE OF CONTENTS:

    1. Suggestions for Florida Torreya Plan Update: Part A - Translocations (p. 2)

    2. Suggestions for Florida Torreya Plan Update: Part B - Actions for DOWNLISTING (p. 4)

    3. Details for updating key sections of the 2010 Recovery Plan for Florida Torreya (p.6)

    4. Details for reinstating sections of the 1986 Recovery Plan for Florida Torreya

    5. Torreya Guardians Citizen Actions Empower Joshua Tree Citizen Advocates (to undertake conservation actions without endangerment listing)

    23. BARLOW FILES "PETITION TO DOWNLIST FROM ENDANGERED TO THREATENED" (2019)

       Because Torreya Guardians has no board or organizational structure, Founder Connie Barlow decided to file a formal "petition" as an individual to the Department of Interior, in accordance with updated regulations pertaining to the Endangered Species Act. The petition is 26 pages long in PDF.

    "An OVERVIEW" (first 3 pages) presents the history, context, and summary arguments.

    • F&WS sends a 3-page OFFICIAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF BARLOW'S PETITION 23 October 2019 and acknowledgement of Barlow's "report" of 25 August 2019 and Lists this Petition as "Active" on the official USF&WS Torreya taxifolia ESA webpage (scroll down to Petitions section) till you get to the section as imaged below.

    24. BARLOW PROTESTS SECRECY AND OUTCOME OF RECOVERY PLAN UPDATE (2020): In contrast to our inclusion in both the working group and the recovery plan revision in 2010, the latest plan revision (process announced August 2018, working group collaborated April 2019, and final plan posted July 2020), we Torreya Guardians were uninvited and unaware until Barlow stumbled on the revised plan during a routine check for possible new postings on the official USF&WS Florida Torreya webpage. Barlow posted this shocking discovery as the October 2020 entry on the chronological Reports page of Torreya Guardians — exactly 2 years after she officially requested an invitation to participate in the working group process and thus present vital information learned by Torreya Guardians during the preceding decade. Barlow included in her October 2020 report the major points of her critique of the resultant 2020 plan. Note: As a safeguard against federal government contraction and loss of history, all three versions of the official Florida Torreya Recovery Plan have been downloaded and made available on this website:
    202020101986

    25. TORREYA GUARDIANS IN WIKIPEDIA "REWILDING PLANTS" ENTRY: In 2020, Connie Barlow posted a new section titled "Rewilding Plants" to the end of the Rewilding (conservation biology) entry on Wikipedia.

    26. CASE STUDY: "Agency and Institutional Failures in Endangered Species Management of Florida Torreya" (2021) is posted by Connie Barlow: While our What We Have Learned webpage offers a chronological (and linked) annotated list of our achievements, there was no place on this website where people could find and assess for themselves the agency and institutional decisions and actions that have stood in the way of helping this beleaguered relict species move north. So when Science journal published a forum piece, "Global Policy for Assisted Colonization of Species", by Jedediah F. Brodie and 6 coauthors (which aims at influencing the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity October 2021), Barlow decided it was time to call out the history of agency and institutional decisions and actions that she interprets as thwarting effective implementation of the Endangered Species Act in this time of rapid climate change.
         Access this 2021 CASE STUDY: "Agency and Institutional Failures.

    27. NEW VIDEO SERIES FEATURES TORREYA GUARDIANS: Helping Forests Walk - episode 1, Introduction

       Retired now to her home state of Michigan, Barlow launched a new video series that builds upon the foundation laid by Torreya Guardians. Titled "Helping Forests Walk", it is a more reflective series on the topic of "assisted migration" than her 2014-2020 video series filmed across America: "Climate, Trees, and Legacy". This introductory episode speaks of Florida Torreya and the work of Torreya Guardians beginning at timecode 26:51.

    As of June 2021, the Torreya Guardians video series entails 34 site-specific episodes.

    28. USF&WS PUBLISHES DECISION ON BARLOW'S 2019 "PETITION TO DOWNLIST": 29 September 2021, the agency publishes its decision. Barlow posts a summary, links, and background on the Torreya Guardians reports page, along with an excerpt of and link to her own response to the agency, September 30. Excerpt of her response:

    ... I believe the USF&WS branch of DOI can produce a policy statement that would authorize, on a case-by-case basis, "endangered species" decisions to begin including climate adaptive responses in favor of suitable conditions in "projected ranges" — not just limited to trying to manipulate the habitat of "historic ranges" to enable species thrival again. This is especially vital for any plant species classified as a "glacial relict" to ever achieve suitable habitat in this rapidly changing climate. New habitat poleward is the only chance to ever delist the plant. Otherwise "safeguarding genetic materials" will be perpetual and never enable a full wild presence....

    • PRESENT: ONGOING PROJECT REPORTS: Webmaster Connie Barlow attempts to keep the various webpages updated. Substantial events, actions, and ideas are posted chronologically on our PROJECT REPORTS webpage. Activities are also posted by state, with links to individual webpages created for each Torreya volunteer who reports results (especially with photos). All state webpages are accessible via the STATE-BY-STATE LIST on our homepage. The LEARNINGS webpage is also chronological by year. One of the most complex (and thus internally indexed by topic) webpages is PROPAGATE, because seeds are precious and so we try to offer new planters our ever-advancing suggestions for best practices.

    • PRESENT: ONGOING LIST OF MEDIA REPORTS: A later section of this webpage catalogs the most important mentions of Torreya Guardians: "Torreya Guardians in the Media". Media include: New York Times • Los Angeles Times • Scientific American • The Economist • Sierra Magazine • Earth Island Journal • Audubon Magazine • Orion Magazine • Landscape Architecture Magazine. The list also includes news reports in academic journals: Nature • Nature Climate Change • Science • Conservation Biology • Forestry Chronicle • Environmental Science and Policy • Animal Law • Canadian Council of Forest Ministers • Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research.


    Torreya Guardians Interactions
    with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

       • 1986 - Lee Barnes (who will later become one of the first Torreya Guardians1) is listed in Appendix C as one of the reviewers of the first recovery plan created for this species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.2

    • 2004 - July 22 email from Stan Simpkins, USFWS Ecologist, to Connie Barlow. This confirms that seeds accessed from horticultural sites and then transported across state lines require no permits from the agency "in the absence of financial transactions."3, 4

    • 2010 - USFWS staff Vivian Negron-Ortiz invites Torreya Guardians to participate in a phone conference call of the "Recovery Working Group," meeting 11 May 2010.5, 6 Connie Barlow and Russell Regnery7 are the two Torreya Guardians who participate in the conference call. Barlow follows up with an 8-page proposal that urges a "shift to a deep-time perspective of native habitat."8

    • 2010 - USFWS issues first update, 2010, of the original 1986 recovery plan.9 The plan mentions Torreya Guardians in three places, including: "Foster a working partnership between the Torreya Guardians, the Service, and other interested parties to help direct their managed relocation efforts."10

    • 2014 - Barlow receives email responses to her email query of September 2, about whether "climate denial" plays a role in the "hesitancy" of the agency "to add assisted migration into its official options."11 USFWS staff Vivian Negron-Ortiz responds in part: "... The goal of the ESA is to 'bring a listed species to the point at which it is no longer likely to become in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range'. So care/guidelines is/are needed to introduce species outside their historic range. Research specifically focused on assisted migration is necessary to help inform the debate on the concept of assisted migration." Prof. Mark Schwartz, a leading Torreya scientist, responds in part: "... I have spoken to a number of USFWS about assisted migration and the hesitancy on the part of the agency is, as I see it, not about climate politics or climate deniers."

    • 2018 - Barlow uses the Freedom of Information Act (United States) to "to leverage communications with USF&WS."12 March 27, she submits a request for "documentation of seed production year by year, beginning in 2007" from the two official ex situ plantings in northern Georgia. On March 29 the request is accepted.13 The process concludes August 29. Barlow sends a "closing statement" to FOIA and FWS staff on August 30,14 and then posts all communications onto the Torreya Guardians website.15

    • 2018 - August 6 the agency announces initiation of "5-Year Status Reviews for 42 Southeastern Species", one of which is Torreya taxifolia.16 October 17, Barlow sends the agency an email pointing to three informational webpages on the group's site for inclusion in the review process, along with a request that she be invited to participate in the advisory committee.17

    • 2019 - September 9 Barlow, as an individual citizen, files a 26-page "Petition to Downlist from Endangered to Threatened."18

    • 2020 - USFWS issues second update of the original 1986 recovery plan.19 July 30 the updated plan is posted. Barlow was not included in agency consultations, nor notified of the posting. The plan references particular pages of the Torreya Guardians website six times as sources of information. The group itself is mentioned once in the text of the document, where it is identified as "a religious group based out of northern Georgia that was created in 2004." Barlow posts on the Reports page of the Torreya Guardians website20 that she interprets as "slighting and slander" the updated plan's characterization of the group. She then lists and describes "two other substantive/legal lapses in the 2020 revised plan": (1) "Absence of reporting any documentation of SEED PRODUCTION NUMBERS and ultimate destinations in any of the ex situ plantings northward of Atlanta Georgia." (2) No progress in developing a "Preventing Extinction Emergency Plan."

    • 2021 - USFWS publishes its decision, September 29, on Barlow's 2019 petition to downlist. The agency finds that "the petition does not provide substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted."21, 22 September 30, Barlow sends a 3-page response to the agency, with this summary: "Your petition decision is fair and sound. Please consider urging F&WS to develop an explicit 'climate adaptation' policy similar to what NPS published in April 2021, such that habitat amelioration need no longer be limited to the species 'historic range'.23
    __________

    01. "Genus Torreya in North Carolina: Planted specimens and their offspring". Torreya Guardians.

    02. "Florida Torreya (Torreya taxifolia) Recovery Plan, 1986" (PDF). ecos.fws.gov.

    03. "Communications re Pro and Anti draft essays, April - Dec 2004"(PDF). Torreya Guardians.

    04. "Untitled 45-page assemblage of emails April-Dec 2004" (PDF). Torreya Guardians.

    05. "Torreya taxifolia (Florida Torreya) Recovery Working Group meeting - Agenda, May 11, 2010" (PDF). Torreya Guardians.

    06. "Torreya taxifolia Recovery Plan Under the Endangered Species Act: Spring 2010 solicitation of comments on assisted migration". Torreya Guardians.

    07. "Torreya taxifolia Propagation near Franklin, NC - 3,800 feet elevation, private landowner, Russell Regnery". Torreya Guardians.

    08. Barlow, Connie. "The Torreya taxifolia USF&WS Recovery Plan Process: An Opportunity to Shift to a Deep-Time Perspective of Native Habitat (12 May 2010)" (PDF). Torreya Guardians.

    09. "Torreya taxifolia (Florida torreya) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation (2010)" (PDF). ecos.fws.gov. Retrieved 13 October 2021.

    10. "COMMENTS ON ESA 2010 RECOVERY PLAN UPDATE (2010)". Torreya Guardians.

    11. Barlow, Connie. "Sept 2014 Report: Correspondence bt our citizen's group and officials in charge of Endangered Species management plan for Torreya taxifolia". Torreya Guardians.

    12. Barlow, Connie. "2018 a difficult year: Four reasons". Torreya Guardians.

    13. "FOIA request / acceptance" (PDF). Torreya Guardians.

    14. Barlow, Connie. "FOIA FWS-2018-00613 Final Response - Torreya taxifolia" (PDF). Torreya Guardians.

    15. Barlow, Connie. "FOIA data request 2018 by Connie Barlow re Torreya taxifolia". Torreya Guardians.

    16. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 5-Year Status Reviews for 42 Southeastern Species: A Notice by the Fish and Wildlife Service on 08/06/2018"Federal Register. U.S. Government.

    17. Barlow, Connie. "Recovery Plan Update for Torreya taxifolia: October 2018 Barlow Comments". Torreya Guardians.

    18. Barlow, Connie. "Petition to DOWNLIST from endangered to threatened Torreya taxifolia (Florida Torreya) - 9 September 2019". Torreya Guardians.

    19. "Torreya taxifolia (Florida torreya) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation (2020)" (PDF). ecos.fws.gov. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    20. Barlow, Connie. "Torreya Guardians excluded from participation in Recovery Plan Update (October 2020)". Torreya Guardians.

    21. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Findings for Five Species - A Proposed Rule by the Fish and Wildlife Service on 09/29/2021"Federal Register. 86 FR 53937: 53937–53941.

    22. "90-DAY FINDING ON A PETITION TO DOWNLIST THE FLORIDA TORREYA (Torreya taxifolia) FROM AN ENDANGERED TO A THREATENED SPECIES UNDER THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT (2021)" (PDF). ecos.fws.gov. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    23. Barlow, Connie. "Response by Connie Barlow to the 29 September 2021 USF&WS DECISION on Barlow's PETITION TO DOWNLIST FLORIDA TORREYA" (PDF). Torreya Guardians.


    Roster of Original Discussants and Advisors
    2002 - 2008

  • Volunteer Website Master: Connie Barlow

  • Volunteer Coordinator of Rewilding Project & Seed Distribution: Lee Barnes, Waynesville NC. Note: Lee Barnes studied Florida Torreya for his PhD dissertation at the University of Florida (1985), available online: "Clonal Propagation of Endangered Plants: Rhododendron chapmanii, Taxus floridana, and Torreya taxifolia".

  • Advisor from the Biltmore Gardens, Asheville NC: Bill Alexander, Forest Historian

  • Advisor from the Sudden Oak Life Project in California: Lee Klinger

  • Advisor from the Torreya Propagation Program at the Smith College Arboretum: Rob Nicholson

  • Advisor from the North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill: Peter White

  • Advisor from Lam Asian Garden, University of British Columbia: Peter Wharton

  • Advisor from New York Botanical Garden: Robbin Moran

  • Advisor from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Dean Gallagher

  • Advisor from Northwest Florida Environmental Conservancy: Karl Studenroth

  • Torreya taxifolia steward in NE Georgia, USA: Jack Johnston

  • Torreya taxifolia stewards in Waynesville NC: Linda McFarland and Janet Manning (for Corneille Bryan Native Garden)

  • Torreya taxifolia steward in western North Carolina: Russell Regnery

  • Torreya taxifolia steward in western North Carolina: Sara Evans

  • Torreya taxifolia (and Taxus floridana and Gaylussacia brachycera) steward in Hayward, Wisconsin: Michael Heim

  • Torreya taxifolia propagator (2005 seeds) at The Dawes Arboretum, Newark OH: Rich Larson

  • Torreya taxifolia propagator (2005 seeds) at Arboretum de Villardebelle in southern France: Didier Maerki

  • Torreya taxifolia propagator (2005 seeds) in mid-Ohio: Rich Poruban

  • Torreya taxifolia propagator (2005 seeds) in Sapphire NC: Patrick Horan

  • Torreya taxifolia propagator (2005 seeds) in New York State: Peter Porcelli

  • Torreya taxifolia propagator (2005 seeds) in Devon, England: Euan Roxburgh

  • Other academic advisors: Mark Schwartz (University of California, Davis); Sharon Hermann (Auburn University), Paul S. Martin (University of Arizona, emeritus)

  • Liaison from The Nature Conservancy: Leigh Brooks

  • Liaison with The Wildlands Project: Josh Brown

  • Contact at the USF&WS (Panama City FL office): Vivian Negron-Ortiz

  • PARTICIPATING PROPAGATORS of T. taxifolia in or near western NC: Jack Johnston, Russell Regnery, Sara Evans, Corneille Bryan Native Garden

  • PARTICIPATING SCHOOLGROUNDS PROPAGATION: Bruce Rinker, chair of the science dept at North Cross School, a private school in Roanoke Valley, Virginia, began preparations for his students and school to participate in T. taxifolia assisted migration experiments and study in autumn 2009.

  • EARLY COMMUNICATING PARTICIPANTS in 2003 and 2004 email communications prior to the formation of Torreya Guardians: Connie Barlow, Paul S. Martin, Hazel Delcourt, David Jarzen, Lee Barnes, Bill Alexander, Peter White, Rob Nicholson, Peter Wharton, Mark Schwartz, Leigh Brooks, Anathea Brooks, Brian Keel, Paul Spitzer, Josh Brown, Sharon Hermann, John Johnson

    Editor's Note: An inability to reach consensus (among the above list of communicators) on the next step for Torreya taxifolia action, led Connie Barlow and Paul S. Martin to draft an advocacy piece for the final issue of Wild Earth magazine, and for Mark Schwartz to submit a rebuttal. Access both papers of the Winter 2004/2005 issue Wild Earth Forum: "Assisted Migration for an Endangered Tree". At the same time, Barlow and Martin published a set of proposed Standards for Assisted Migration on this website.

    The next major step was the July 2008 "Rewilding" action at Waynesville and Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. Access photo-essays of 2008 Torreya action and Chronology of Events leading up to the 2008 action.

    An archived history of the early debate over terminology is also available: "Assisted Migration or Assisted Colonization: What's in a Name?".


    Archived Documents of Early Roots of Torreya Guardians

    Note by Connie Barlow: January 2018 I sorted through my old folder of ancient digital correspondence during the early years of Torreya Guardians and have converted these into pdf segments for historical archiving on this website. The documents are as follows:

    Archive OVERVIEW of email correspondence prior to June 2010 (18 pages)

    Archive of email correspondence prior to June 2010 (228 pages)

    Archive of email correspondence November 2004 - January 2005 (12 pages)

    Lee Barnes solicits volunteers for 2005 Biltmore seeds (1 page)

    Review by Connie Barlow of Forests in Peril book by Hazel Delcourt, in Winter 2004 Wild Earth magazine

    Reviews of Forests in Peril posted on Amazon by Torreya Guardians Connie Barlow and Russ Regnery

    In early 2004, Connie Barlow assembled an expert group to discuss potential assisted migration of Torreya taxifolia, with the hopes that a joint advocacy paper could result and be published. Ultimately, Connie Barlow and Paul S. Martin determined that they alone would write such a paper, as none of the others were willing to be as forceful in advocacy as they wanted to be. The documents below archive the e-correspondence in that discussion (chronologically for the most part), and then in the drafting of the pro-assisted migration paper.
    Names and bios of 24 Torreya discussion participants, compiled by Connie Barlow 24 April 2004

    Listserve created by Lee Barnes for discussion, 37 pages of early 2004 e-correspondence, although many participants chose to communicate by email directly to Barlow, rather than use the listserve.

    "Is the Current Range of Torreya taxifolia Its True Native Range?, draft manuscript by Hazel Delcourt, 19 February 2004 (18 pages)

    Editor's note: Hazel Delcourt wrote this draft academic paper, based on group conversations to date. She listed Connie Barlow, Paul S. Martin, Lee Barnes, and Richard Alexander as proposed co-authors, although (as Barlow recollects in 2018) none of us had directly contributed any writing to Hazel's original draft. Nothing more was done with this draft, as a more popular venue, Wild Earth magazine was since decided upon, and thus a foreshortened presentation of background was called for, shifting attention to pro and con conservation arguments re assisted migration of T. taxifolia.
    "Ten Questions" to stimulate Torreya discussion re advocacy, by Connie Barlow, March 2004 (7 pages)

    Responses to Ten Questions, pt 1, March 2004 (7 pages)

    Communicators include: Peter White (UNC), Sharon Hermann (Tall Timbers), Ron Determann (ABG), Paul Martin (UAZ), Leigh Brooks (TNC), Connie Barlow; (7 pages)
    Responses to Ten Questions, pt 2, April - July 2004 (38 pages)
    Communicators include: Connie Barlow, Greg Seamon (TNC), Peter Wharton (Lam Asian Garden, Vancouver), John Johnson (grad student), Robbin Moran (NYBG), Dave Foreman (Rewilding Institute), Paul Martin (U AZ), Mark Schwartz (UC Davis), Peter White (UNC), Josh Brown (Wild Earth), Brian Keel (grad student); (38 pages)
    Communications re Pro and Anti draft essays, April - Dec 2004 (45 pages)
    Communicators include: Mark Schwartz (his draft anti essay); Connie Barlow (response to Schwartz draft essay & her proposal for "standards"); Paul Martin (response to Schwartz draft); Peter White (concurs with Schwartz draft, responds to Barlow "standards"); Anathea Brooks (NASA conservation ecologist, detailed concerns re both anti- and pro- drafts); Stan Simpkins (USF&WS, confirms loophole in ESA for seeds on and to private lands outside FL); David Jarzen (UFL); Brian Keel (responds to 10 Questions); Al Traversej (retired colleague of Paul Martin) (38 pages)
    "Draft of Pro Assisted Migration", by Connie Barlow, 6 Aug 2004 (12 pages)

    "Draft of Pro Strandards", by Connie Barlow, 6 Aug 2004 (2 pages)

    "Paul Martin's edits on the draft Pro paper", by Paul Martin, 2004 (14 pages)

    "Second Draft of Pro Assisted Migration", by Connie Barlow & Paul Martin, 21 Aug 2004 (12 pages)

    "Third Draft of Pro Assisted Migration", by Connie Barlow & Paul Martin, 8 September 2004 (9 pages)

    FINAL ARTICLES re Torreya assisted migration:

    FOR assisted migration, by Connie Barlow & Paul Martin

    ANTI assisted migration, by Mark Schwartz

    FORUM, both articles for wide screen layout

    STANDARDS for Assisted Migration, by Connie Barlow & Paul Martin


    Torreya Guardians in the Media

    The Economist, 2015. "The self-styled Torreya Guardians collect thousands of seeds a year and plant them in likely places across the eastern United States. Stinking cedar [a.k.a. Florida Torreya] turns out to thrive in North Carolina. The Torreya Guardians are now trying to plant it in colder states like Ohio and Michigan as well. By the time the trees are fully grown, they reason, temperatures might be ideal there.... The Torreya Guardians were at first seen as 'eco-terrorists spreading an invasive species', remembers Connie Barlow, the group's chief propagandist. She rejects that charge, pointing out that she is only moving the tree within America. She also thinks that drastic action of this kind will soon be widespread: 'We are the radical edge of what is going to become a mainstream action.'
    Online access:
    "A Modern Ark: To save endangered species move them to more congenial places".

        New York Times, 2014

    "In 2008, Connie Barlow, a biologist and conservationist, helped move an endangered conifer tree in Florida north by planting seedlings in cooler regions. Now she is working in the West. "I just assisted in the migration of the alligator juniper in New Mexico by planting seeds in Colorado," she said. "We have to. Climate change is happening so fast and trees are the least capable of moving."

    "Building an Ark for the Anthropocene".


    "While researchers are using computer models to predict the future needs of threatened species, one group has decided that the time to act is now. The Florida torreya, the most endangered coniferous tree in the US, has been moved north by a group of citizens known as the Torreya Guardians. They exploited a loophole in US law that allows plant translocations on private land by the public but prevents federal conservation authorities from doing the same thing."

    — Sarah Dalrymple, 2021
    "Why climate change is forcing conservationists to be more ambitious"
    The Conversation

    * * * * *

    "A common prediction for how plants will respond to climate change is that it is humans who got them into this mess and so it is humans who will have to get them out of it. That's why the idea of assisted migration of species, although often illustrated with the proposal to shift polar bears to the Antarctic, crops up more frequently in conversations about how to preserve iconic trees. Indeed, in one of the only real-world examples of assisted migration so far, campaigners have planted the seeds of the critically endangered conifer Torreya taxifolia hundreds of miles north of its Florida home."

    — editorial, 4 December 2017
    "Grows well in sun and warmth — and shade and cold"
    Nature

    * * * * *

    "For a group of scrappy citizen scientists known as the Torreya Guardians, though, the Florida torreya is more than just a malodorous, finicky conifer — it is a tree worth saving. And it is also becoming a symbol of what can be achieved when a group of private citizens puts their hearts and minds towards saving an endangered species. Their radical if controversial approach might end up shifting the future of conservation, particularly in a warming world."

    — Sam Schipani, 2018
    "Scrappy Group of Citizen Scientists Rallies Around One of World's Rarest Trees"
    Earth Island Journal

    * * * * *

    "A group of grassroots activists stirred controversy a decade ago when they moved endangered Florida torreya trees to locations in North Carolina and as far away as Ohio."

    — Madeline Ostrander, January 2019
    "Can We Help Our Forests Prepare for Climate Change"
    Sierra Magazine

    * * * * *

    "Connie Barlow says she has a cure for torreya — move them far enough north to escape Fusarium and a steadily warming climate. The torreya "is in deep trouble in its historic native range, so let's give it a chance to establish in cooler realms," Barlow wrote 15 years ago. Her thinking hasn't changed. "'Assisted migration' may be the only stay against extinction.""

    — Dan Chapman, April 2019
    "Saving the Florida torreya: One goal, two schools of thought on preserving the rare, endangered tree" (article produced by press office of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

    * * * * *

    "The Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia), however, is an example of a species whose existing range had already become unsuitable and so was translocated 600 km north to a more suitable area (Barlow & Martin 2004)."

    — Nathalie Butt et al., 2020
    "Importance of species translocations under rapid climate change"
    Conservation Biology

    * * * * *

    "Assisted colonization has already been used for plant species, such as Torreya taxifolia, an endangered conifer native to the Florida panhandle."

    — Dyani Lewis, 2016
    "Relocating Australian tortoise sets controversial precedent"
    Science

    * * * * *

    "In a paper published last month in Science, a group of researchers offered one potential route around this impasse. They propose that at the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held in Kunming, China this October, the signatories agree upon a set of guidelines on assisted colonization which people around the world could use to consistently and explicitly weigh the risks involved in potential assisted colonization projects. While this risk-assessment framework is so far hypothetical, a number of other organizations and governments have published reports and policy documents on assisted colonization in recent years — a suggestion that the controversial conservation technique may finally be descending from the lofty realm of theory into the firmer one of practice.... One of Brodie's coauthors on the paper was Schwartz, now a professor of ecology at the University of California, Davis. After laying out the conundrum posed by assisted colonization in his 1992 paper, Schwartz made the first explicit case against the practice, in a 2004 paper arguing against an effort by a group of concerned citizens working to move the endangered Florida torreya tree from its tiny range in the Florida Panhandle farther north into the Eastern U.S."

    — Zach St. George, 2021
    "Relocating Climate-Stricken Species Is a Very Tricky Business"
    Mother Jones

    * * * * *

    "This case explores ethical issues surrounding assisted migration of endangered species. In particular, it focuses on Torreya taxifolia, an evergreen conifer tree endemic to Florida, and an activist group, Torreya Guardians..."

    — Michelle Sullivan Govani, 2017
    "Assisted Migration: Case Study"
    Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science

    * * * * *

    "While assisted colonization, such as the introduction of kakapo to offshore islands, has been used for over a century to protect species from inescapable threats such as invasive predators, it will be increasingly motivated by climate change. In the United States, the Torreya Guardians translocated seedlings of the Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) to areas beyond its current range to save the species from climate-induced threats. This translocation was originally conceived as a reintroduction to part of the species' prehistoric range. However, it was subsequently interpreted as an assisted colonization in response to climate change, starting intensive debate on that topic (McLachlan et al. 2007). Although strongly opposed by some people, assisted colonization appears to be an essential strategy for managing some long-lived tree species in the face of climate change, and is generally well accepted by foresters (Williams and Dumroese 2013)."

    — Doug P. Armstrong, Philip J. Seddon, and Axel Moehrenschlager, 2019
    Encyclopedia of Ecology, 2nd edition, Topic: "Reintroduction"
    doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.10589-5

    * * * * *

    "It took action by a non-government organisation to re-awaken a debate on translocation for climate change mitigation. In the mid 2000s, the Torreya Guardians, a special interest group, formed to save the Florida torreya tree from extinction, and they embarked on a project to deliberately expand the range of the torreya more than 500 km northwards. The endangered conifer persisted in a single population of fewer than 1000 trees within a Pleistocene refuge in Florida. Climate change was predicted to reduce, or even eliminate, their habitat in this native range. The acquisition of torreya seeds and their planting in new areas was done legally, making this early and successful instance of assisted colonisation relatively straight-forward (McLachlan et al., 2007), at least from the Torreya Guardians' point of view."

    — Philip J. Seddon et al., 2015
    Chapter 9 "Past, current, and future use of assisted colonisation"
    in Advances in Reintroduction Biology of Australian and New Zealand Fauna (Doug Armstrong, ed.)

    * * * * *

    "Such reform may come from outside of ossified existing policy regimes, through various kinds of bottom-up and top-down policy leadership. An example of the former, for example, occurred in Florida recently in the actions of the Torreya Guardians group which, for nearly a decade, has taken a variety of assisted migration actions to protect the endangered Torreya taxifolia. Motivated by climate change impacts and possible extinction of this conifer species, this group of botanists and amateur enthusiasts outpaced forest services in planting seedlings 400 miles north of the torreya's current natural range to sites in the North Carolina mountains (Economist 2015). Similarly, in what could portend an important development in this area, for example, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) stated that assisted migration of tree species is an important approach to 'adapting our sustainable forest management to climate change' (FPAC 2016). Such citizen and industry-led science and advocacy may provide a vehicle for policy patching in the face of stymied top-down policy dynamics and provide an additional avenue to reform and enhanced integration in the sector."

    — Adam Wellstead and Michael Howlett, 2016
    Assisted tree migration in North America: Policy legacies, enhanced forest policy integration, and climate change adaptation
    Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

    * * * * *

    "The well-known case of the Torreya Guardians that have translocated seedlings of Torreya taxifolia to more northerly latitudes in North America represents an independent citizen action of very involved and proactive people."

    — Roxane Sansilvestre et al., 2015
    Policy tools for implementing assisted migration for species and ecosystem management
    Environmental Science & Policy

    * * * * *

    "The poster child for assisted migration is the critically endangered Torreya taxifolia, sometimes known as stinking cedar. Fewer than a thousand torreya hang on along the ravines and bluffs above the Apalachicola River in the Florida panhandle.... When the Torreya Guardians first began publicizing this approach and planting saplings out in the woods of North Carolina, there was significant skepticism in the scientific community, and concerns about creating a new invasive species or altering the balance of established communities were frequently raised. But the planting experiments seem to be going well, and the Torreya Guardians are slowly learning how best to propagate the species."

    — Kevan Williams, 2014
    "Have Tree, Will Travel
    Landscape Architecture Magazine

    * * * * *

    "In 2008, Connie Barlow, a biologist and conservationist, helped move an endangered conifer tree in Florida north by planting seedlings in cooler regions. Now she is working in the West. 'I just assisted in the migration of the alligator juniper in New Mexico by planting seeds in Colorado,' she said. 'We have to. Climate change is happening so fast and trees are the least capable of moving.'"

    — Jim Robbins, 2014
    "Building an Ark for the Anthropocene
    New York Times

    * * * * *

    "Despite the buzz about species translocation, it is highly controversial. On one side are conservationists who prioritize saving endangered species. On the other are biologists who envision the introduced species becoming invasive in their new habitats. The Torreya Guardians — a grass-roots group determined to save the Torreya taxifolia, also known as the Florida torreya — belong to the pro-translocation camp. The tree once populated the forests of the southeastern United States.... Lee Barnes is one of the founding members of the Torreya Guardians and an ecologist by training. He said the group is an example of a low-risk effort to save "a tree that's survived the test of time."

    — Niina Heikkinen, 2014
    "Endangered Species: Will it be extinction or translocation?"
    E&E News

    * * * * *

    "'Looking at all life-forms, it is trees that move the slowest. The majority of trees cannot keep pace with climate change,' Torreya Guardians' founder Connie Barlow says, adding that the Florida torreya's seeds are too large to be carried by the wind or most animals. Assisted migration is controversial, but Barlow and others argue that on a continental landmass like Europe or North America, terrestrial species have shifted back and forth with climatic change over the millennia, so that what seem like 'new"'species combinations have actually existed in the past."

    — Ruby Russell, 2014
    "Species migration shaping ecosystems of the future"
    Deutsche Welle

    * * * * *

    "One of the first attempts at assisted long-distance migration has been organized by a citizens' group, the Torreya Guardians, in the United States. Torreya taxifolia is a coniferous species that has suffered a critical decline in its natural range in northern Florida. The Torreya Guardians have planted the tree in new locations in the states of Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, and North Carolina, where it is reported to be growing well. Without assisted migration, such groups argue, species such as Torreya taxifolia could be lost forever, affecting biodiversity."

    — Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (Climate Change Task Force), 2014
    "Adapting Sustainable Forest Management to Climate Change: A Review of Assisted Tree Migration and its Potential Role in Adapting Sustainable Forest Management to Climate Change"

    * * * * *

    — Richard Winder et al., 2011,
    "Ecological Implications for Assisted Migration in Canadian Forests"
    The Forestry Chronicle

    * * * * *

    "Several individuals and citizen groups have already begun to apply the approach to rare plant species. The Torreya Guardians, for example, a group of volunteers including botanists and professional conservationists largely based in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, have been cultivating seedlings of the Florida torreya since 2005, and planting them outside the plant's formally described historical range (although the Torreya Guardians argue that the species may have thrived there during the last peak interglacial warm period).... A five-year review of [the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service] Florida torreya recovery plan includes a proposal to work with the Torreya Guardians on an assisted-colonization project if other approaches fail." "

    — Patrick Shirey & Gary Lamberti 2011
    "Regulate Trade in Rare Plants"
    Nature

    * * * * *

    "Assisted migration has gained sufficient acceptance to be implemented in a few situations in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., a coalition of botanists and environmentalists known as the Torreya Guardians transported members of a Florida species of conifer tree with a shrinking range in Florida's panhandle to North Carolina."

    — Jessica Kabaz-Gomez, 2012
    "Rules for Playing God: The Need for Assisted Migration & New Regulation"
    Animal Law

    * * * * *

    "Shirey cited as an example the Torreya Guardians, a loose-knit group of citizen and professional conservationists who are replanting the Florida torreya, a type of evergreen tree, on private land outside its current natural habitat. The conservationists justify this action by pointing out that the torreya used to thrive farther north in the last warm period between glacial freezes. 'It's not in its correct habitat right now. It should be in the Appalachians,' said group cofounder Connie Barlow."

    — Amina Khan, 2011
    "Trade in Rare Plants Sows Trouble for Endangered Species"
    Los Angeles Times

    * * * * *

    "This group has created an extensive online information resource for their activities (Torreya Guardians 2011), which was most likely used to assist in this decision-making process.... This example of assisted migration has raised the issue of authorization and oversight as the official federal recovery plan does not identify assisted migration as a conservation strategy for Florida Torreya. The momentum that this group has created resulted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considering whether assisted migration is an appropriate strategy for this species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2010). It is yet to be seen if official plans will include a more thorough assessment of the ecological impacts of assisted migration, or more extensive monitoring programs. Nonetheless, this is a very interesting example of how a grassroots organization can propel assisted migration into the forefront, causing a governmental agency to consider the use of this strategy."

    — Tannis Beardmore and Richard Winder, 2011
    "Review of science-based assessments of species vulnerability:
    Contributions to decision-making for assisted migration"

    Forestry Chronicle

    * * * * *

    "The Torreya Guardians website contains a wealth of information on the topic of assisted migration."

    — Susan March Leech, Pedro Lara Almuedo, Greg O’Neill, 2011
    "Assisted Migration: adapting forest management to a changing climate"
    BC Journal of Ecosystems and Management

    * * * * *

    "Ecocentrists are likely to consider assisted migration as a diverted effort — a techno-fix restricted to treating the symptom of biodiversity loss, implying that no fundamental change in human activities is required. From an ecocentric perspective, climate change interventions should be restricted to a strong reduction of human impact on nature (i.e., reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other anthropogenic stressors). This position focus on climate change mitigation and view adaptation initiatives, such as assisted migration, as 'giving up' on the problem. However, in some cases, ecocentrists might consider assisted migration for the intrinsic value of a species (e.g., the Torreya Guardians)

    — I. Aubin et al., 2011
    "Why we disagree about assisted migration:
    Ethical implications of a key debate regarding the future of Canada's forests"

    Forestry Chronicle

    * * * * *

    "Torreya taxifolia, an endangered conifer with a shrinking range in Florida's panhandle, is the best documented case of a managed relocation (MR). A conservation advocacy organization, the Torreya Guardians, planted seedlings of the species in North Carolina in an attempt to save it from climate-driven decline (see http://www.torreyaguardians.org/)."

    — Ben Minteer and James Collins, 2012
    "Species Conservation, Rapid Environmental Change, and Ecological Ethics"
    Nature Education Knowledge

    * * * * *

    "In 2005, as part of a 'no-budget, self-organizing, completely volunteer and paperwork-free recovery plan' for the Florida torreya, Barlow recruited Lee Barnes to launch a grassroots seed-distribution project. Taking seeds or plants from the wild and moving them across state lines without a permit would have been illegal, so the Torreya Guardians began by distributing seeds donated by a public garden in North Carolina, where a grove of Florida torreyas planted 70 years ago has been thriving and reproducing.... Undaunted, Barlow, armed with a website and an email list, has managed to advance a new conservation paradigm. The website she launched, www.torreyaguardians.org, has provided a forum for both citizens and scientists interested in debating the efficacy and ethics of assisted migration for critically imperiled species like the Florida torreya. In fact, many of the guidelines now being discussed in various scientific forums originated on this website."

    — Janet Marinelli, 2010
    "Guardian Angels"
    Audubon Magazine

    * * * * *

    "Activists for protecting Torreya taxifolia have made a case for the assisted migration of the conifer from Florida and Georgia to the southern Appalachians, claiming that moving the endangered plants is "[e]asy, legal, and cheap."As evidence for the potential success of their project, the authors point to a group of surviving Torreya taxifolia conifers along a streamlet in the Biltmore Gardens in North Carolina, thought to have been planted there decades ago by a private party who brought the specimens from Florida. Though the authors concede that the actual effects of assisted migration on the recipient environment will only become apparent once the process is carried out, they rely on the judgments of others with long associations with the plant to support the claim that it will not become noxious to its recipient ecosystem, and may even provide important shading along streams. After publishing this advocacy piece, the authors created Torreya Guardians, and they have translocated seedlings of Torreya taxifolia a number of times, claiming these translocations were a success."

    — Alejandro Camacho, 2010
    "Assisted Migration: Redefining Nature and Natural Resource Law Under Climate Change"
    Yale Journal on Regulation

    * * * * *

    As questions swirl about how best to proceed, the plight of one species has driven people to take matters into their own hands. Blighted by disease, the Florida Torreya pine has lost more than 98% of its population since the 1950s. Over the past decade, the Torreya Guardians have been distributing seeds well beyond the tree's historic range. The private group cites climate change as one rationale for its 'assisted migration'. [Dov] Sax sees a moral justification for this ecoactivism. "They have every right to try and fix a problem that they don't see anyone else dealing with," he says. But there is a dark side, he notes. "It makes me nervous to think that any group could move any species they wanted. This would occasionally lead to some nasty ecological consequences."

    — Richard Stone, 2010
    "Home, Home Outside the Range?"
    Science

    * * * * *

    "One amateur group, the Torreya Guardians, are attempting to 'rewild' the endangered Florida torreya, a conifer tree. Native only to a 65-kilometer length of the Apalachicola River, it began to decline in the 1950s, probably because of fungal pathogens, and is thought to be 'left behind' in a habitat hole that has prevented its migration northward. A few dozen seedlings were planted on private land near Waynesville, N.C., last July, with more expected."

    — David Appell 2009
    "Can "Assisted Migration" Save Species from Global Warming?"
    Scientific American

    * * * * *

    "The Torreya Guardians, a group of citizens undertaking the translocation of the Florida torreya, now cite climate change as an additional rationale for movement of the species outside its historic range (Barlow and Martin, 2005), though the practice is not universally accepted."

    — Pati Vitt, Kayri Havens, and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. 2009
    "Assisted migration: Part of an integrated conservation strategy"
    Trends in Ecology and Evolution

    * * * * *

    "In 2004 Barlow formed Torreya Guardians, an all-volunteer Web-based group dedicated to saving the tree. She wanted to engage citizens in Torreya's predicament and create a forum for discussing the pros and cons of moving the Eastern species of this genus north. 'I wanted to move the debate forward and provide a model for citizen naturalists, even those who disagree, to prove you don't have to be an expert to do something useful. It is possible to take action on behalf of one species.'"

    — Sidney Cruze 2009
    "Rewilding a Native"
    North Carolina Wildlife Magazine

    * * * * *

    "In a 2004 forum in the now-defunct journal Wild Earth, Barlow and Martin made what might be the first public case for assisted migration. Moving even federally endangered plants like the Florida torreya to more favorable climates, they wrote, was 'easy, legal, and cheap,' and Torreya taxifolia, prevented by highways, topography, and its own biology from moving quickly on its own, needed immediate help. While horticulturists at the Atlanta Botanical Garden have spent years raising Torreya taxifolia in greenhouses and seminatural 'potted orchards' in northern Georgia, Barlow and Martin dismissed these efforts, saying that 'potted is the botanical equivalent of caged.' They proposed that T. taxifolia be planted on privately owned forest lands in southern Appalachia, easily four hundred miles from the Florida Panhandle. The risk of the slow-growing, problem-prone Florida torreya becoming an invasive weed is vanishingly small, they argued, and in the Appalachian forests, the tree might even take the place of the eastern hemlock, another subcanopy conifer in precipitous decline."

    — Michelle Nijhuis, 2008
    "Taking Wildness in Hand: Rescuing Species"
    Orion Magazine

    * * * * *

    "At least on a limited scale, it seems that assisted migration is already happening. One of the most well-known cases is the transfer of Torreya taxifolia, a Florida conifer with a tiny range that many believe survives there only due to historical accident. In a desperate bid to protect their beloved species, a group of botanists and environmentalists who call themselves the Torreya Guardians have established a volunteer seed-planting campaign to move it northwards. On 3 August, they planted 31 Torreya taxifolia seedlings in North Carolina."

    — Emma Marris, 2008
    "Moving on Assisted Migration"
    Nature Climate Change

    * * * * *

    "The cost of translocations will vary enormously depending on the biology of the target species. Perhaps as important is the issue of who should bear these costs. Having a species-focused group such as the Torreya Guardians (www.torreyaguardians.org) dedicate their money and time to a translocation may be more acceptable to the conservation community than if a government agency or broad-based environmental group, such as The Nature Conservancy, does so."

    — Malcolm L. Hunter, Jr., 2007
    "Climate Change and Moving Species: Furthering the Debate on Assisted Colonization"
    Conservation Biology

    * * * * *

    "This theme was picked up in the first public discussion of assisted migration, a pair of dueling articles published in 2004 by the environmentalist journal Wild Earth about the wisdom of moving the endangered Torreya pines north. Writing in favor was Connie Barlow, a science writer, amateur horticulturalist, and the founder of the Torreya Guardians, along with Paul Martin, a zoologist and researcher of fossilized pollen, seeds, and spores. They argued that the Torreya is not truly native to northern Florida but was pushed south, along with many species, by the last ice age and then was unable to move north again when the glaciers retreated. Thus, they concluded, moving Torreya to North Carolina would actually be a sort of homecoming for the tree.... Barlow, meanwhile, has fielded inquiries from people interested in following the group's example for the endangered Florida yew, a dark-green needled tree with smooth, purple-brown bark. And similar talk has swirled around the iconic Joshua trees, which are disappearing from the national park that bears their name. But Barlow says that she's just out to save the Torreya and is not trying to set an example for 'how to solve the world's biodiversity crises.' She says scientists may still be in doubt about exactly what caused the Torreya's decline, but insists she has a personal connection to the tree and knows it doesn't belong in the heat of northern Florida. 'I kept visiting these spindly trees and thinking, nobody understands you but I do,' she says. 'I made a personal commitment to do whatever it took to save them.'"

    — Chris Berdik., 2008
    "Driving Mr. Lynx"
    Boston Globe

    * * * * *

    "The focus of the Torreya Guardians is an 'assisted migration' program that would introduce seedlings to forests across the Southern Appalachians and Cumberland Plateau (http://www.TorreyaGuardians.org). Their intent is to avert extinction by deliberately expanding the range of this endangered plant over 500 km northward. Because planting endangered plants in new environments is relatively simple as long as seeds are legally acquired and planted with landowner permission, the Torreya Guardians believe their efforts are justified. Introducing this species to regions where it has not existed for 65 million years is '[e]asy, legal, and cheap' (Barlow & Martin 2004)."

    — Jason S. McLachlan, Jessica J. Hellmann, and Mark W. Schwartz, 2007
    "A Framework for Debate of Assisted Migration in an Era of Climate Change"
    Conservation Biology

    * * * * *

    "The precipitous decline of the species has sent conservationists scrambling to find a way to save the Florida Torreya from extinction. The differences of opinion between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and a small group of avant garde conservationists on just how is the best way to 'assist' the recovery of the Florida Torreya is quickly becoming an important debate in a time marked by the undeniable phenomenon of climate change, which has vastly complicated efforts to implement recovery plans for endangered species."

    — Buzz Williams, 2012
    "'Assisted Migration' and the Stinking Cedar"
    Chattooga Quarterly



    Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis, James Vose et al., editors, 2016, (300 pages in pdf; collaborative effort of 77 scientists).

    Although this document pertains to projecting and managing for drought the forests of the USA, it necessarily deals with the whole of climate change. This document is highly recommended as an overview of the current research and for its superb lists of key references by chapter. Only one tree species is mentioned in having ASSISTED MIGRATION underway in the USA:

       p. 81 "Centuries of horticultural and decades of silvicultural practices show that growth and establishment (reproductive success) of many tree species is possible well outside of their native ranges. Many commercial (e.g., loblolly pine) and ornamental species have had their ranges greatly expanded across the Southeastern United States. The widespread plantings of the southern magnolia in the southeastern Piedmont (Gruhn and White 2011) and upper Coastal Plain, and bois d'arc (Maclura pomifera) across the Eastern United States (Burton 1990) are examples of such facilitated migrations, helping to establish these species well beyond their native ranges. While these cultivated successes could be viewed as examples of the potential conservation value of assisted migration, far less is known about the likelihood of success of this management practice for the species most directly threatened by climate-induced environmental change. Efforts are currently underway to see if assisted migration can help with the federally endangered Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) as well as a number of other tree species imperiled by the anticipated impacts of increased drought and higher temperatures on their limited native distributions (McLachlan and others 2007, Williams and Dumroese 2013).

    Note by Barlow: In March, I checked with our staff contact at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see if they now regard their ex situ Torreya plantings in northern Georgia as being a foundational component of a developing assisted migration project. Her answer was no. So the reference to Florida Torreya assisted migration in this U.S. Forest Service report is referring entirely to the project initiated by TORREYA GUARDIANS.


       Just before the 2015 global climate conference in Paris, The Economist included an 8-part "special report" on climate change. The biodiversity section features the work of Torreya Guardians as the USA example of climate adaptation underway. Online access: "A Modern Ark: To save endangered species move them to more congenial places".

    EXCERPT: Along the banks of the Apalachicola river, near the border between Florida and Georgia, lives a rare tree called a stinking cedar. Once common, Torreya taxifolia seems to have got stuck in this tiny pocket as the continent warmed after the last ice age. It cannot migrate northward because the surrounding soils are too poor. Attacked by fungi, just a few hundred stinking cedars remain along the river. Rising temperatures now threaten to kill them off entirely.
         Spying a looming extinction, a group of people is engaged in a kind of ecological vigilantism. The self-styled "Torreya Guardians" collect thousands of seeds a year and plant them in likely places across the eastern United States. Stinking cedar turns out to thrive in North Carolina. The Torreya Guardians are now trying to plant it in colder states like Ohio and Michigan as well. By the time the trees are fully grown, they reason, temperatures might be ideal there.
         Some are dubious. The Torreya Guardians were at first seen as "eco-terrorists spreading an invasive species", remembers Connie Barlow, the group's chief propagandist. She rejects that charge, pointing out that she is only moving the tree within America. She also thinks that drastic action of this kind will soon be widespread: "We are the radical edge of what is going to become a mainstream action."


       In 2015, science wroter Kara Rogers published a book that includes a detailed chapter on Florida Torreya (University of Arizona Press). The end of that chapter highlights the work of TORREYA GUARDIANS:
    ...Perhaps science needs to go through a trial of assisted migration with Florida torreya. It is, after all, the only way to find out whether the process truly works, and it would help us to better understand advantages and drawbacks.... Given its low invasive potential, the risks of moving ahead with its assisted migration are minimal. The Guardians have also used a very cautious approach, and one grounded in science, if premised on assumptions. The data they have collected on Florida torreya habitat preferences, germination, and seedling growth are themselves of remarkable value..."
    Access sample excerpts here or the book as it appears on Google Books: The Quiet Extinction: Stories of North America's Rare and Threatened Plants.


        A September 2014 4-page article, "Have Tree, Will Travel" is a superb way to grasp the paleoecological foundation that undergirds projects for which poleward "assisted migration" on the continent of origin is becoming standard practice in this century of rapid climate change. The author, park planner Kevan Williams, weaves the science and policy viewpoints into three sequential narratives:
        (1) a futile recent Nature Conservancy project of attempting to "rewild" a native camellia, Franklinia alatamaha, southward to its "native" (actually, peak-glacial) habitat in southern Georgia from its cultivated (rescue) domain near Philadelphia.
        (2) the ongoing (and thus far successful) attempt by citizen naturalists to work around the Endangered Species Act and thus on their own initiative move a critically endangered Florida conifer, Torreya taxifolia (photo left), from its peak glacial refuge in northern Florida into the southern Appalachians and points farther north.
        (3) the disaster looming large for even common forest trees, as climate shifts rapidly, along with the role that massive projects of assisted migration, on the one hand, and urban forest landscaping, on the other, could play in helping species move north.


    In 2014 two foresters, Mary I. Williams and R. Kasten Dumroese, created a very useful graphic, based on a tripartite distinction gaining traction among professional foresters as to how they regard "assisted migration."

    They distinguish 3 types of climate adpation entailing the movement of seeds or seedlings poleward or upslope: (1) Assisted population migration, (2) Assisted range expansion, and (3) Assisted species migration.

       Florida Torreya is the illustrated example of type 3.

    This chart appears in,

    "Assisted Migration: What It Means to Nursery Managers and Tree Planters".


        Torreya Guardians was featured in Chapter 5, "Assisted Migration," of the 2013 book by science writer Emma Marris, titled Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World.

    ... Barlow organized a planting party ... and she's pleased with how everything jelled as a result. As she put it in her essay on the action:

    "Were it not for the conservation biologists and land stewards who took alarm at the prospect of ordinary citizens acting on their own to move an endangered plant far north of its so-called 'native' range, there would have been little ground for the major media to pay attention to the desperate plight of one obscure species. And it was media attention that motivated us 'guardians' to consider that maybe now is the time, and maybe we are the people."
    A precedent has been set, and it was the amateurs rather than the professionals who set it.... All in all, it looks like the horse is out of the barn. What's not clear is whether scientists like Parmesan or citizens like Barlow will be running the show."


        In a February 2017 report, "Saving Endangered Species: Voluntary Solutions to Conservation", Torreya Guardians is one of 6 non-governmental groups recognized as helping endangered species recovery without using taxpayer money. The report was published by Strata Policy, well known for its libertarian leanings, and criticized by some for accepting funding by the Koch Brothers.
    EXCERPT: ... Even though their efforts have proven successful, the group still faces opposition by those who oppose the use of assisted migration. Some conservationists believe that assisted migration will result in the tree becoming an invasive species in its new environment.

    The Guardians argue that the likelihood of this is very small. Despite being protected by the ESA, many less charismatic species like the Torreya taxifolia are overlooked by conservation efforts and funding. The work being done by the Torreya Guardians is an example of private individuals helping to fulfill these conservation needs. (pp. 11-12)



     


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    Annotated List of Papers/Reports Online re Assisted Migration