Life in the swamp: We have been using genetically nonlocal material of some species for a long time (e.g., Mountain brome and Bluebunch wheatgrass). This practice has probably influenced the local genetic structure of true native populations so that it would be difficult in all cases to make a strong case for the use of local natives. Consult both your Range and Cultural Heritage Staffs for some assistance with this material.
Autoerotica: Many species of plants are self pollinating or asexual. Such species would pose a lower threat to the local genetic structure of native populations.
Its a small world after all: Plant breeding systems and the vagaries of individual species makes it difficult to define seed transfer zones. Additionally, the geographic and elevational ranges over which genetically determined characters diverge will vary with the specific trait being considered. Examples for conifers and herbaceous perennials are given.
...the smell of napalm in the morning: When landscapes are drastically disturbed, it will be difficult to determine what plant material may be most appropriate for the altered site. I take another (well deserved) swipe at Russian Olive in this section.
The way things ought to be: There are many legal, scientific, ethical, and aesthetic reasons to use genetically local plant material for almost every project that we do. The main reasons that we use exotics and cultivars is that to do so is easy and cheap. Shame on us. Many Forests throughout the nation are making the change to genetically local material and the individuals involved should be sought out and thanked for their efforts. In the mean time it is potentially useful to discuss the potential legitimate exceptions to the golden rule (Go Native!). The important thing is that we think in terms of ecosystem health, not bureaucratic obstructionism.
Wayne R. Owen, Ph.D.
Forest Botanist, Boise National Forest (R04F02A)