For Immediate Release, August 14, 2008
Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 or (323) 490-0223
Critical Habitat Designation Threatens Two Endangered California Plants,
Prevents Recovery of Endangered California Dandelion and
San Bernardino Mountains Bluegrass
LOS ANGELES— Continuing its campaign against endangered species and the environment, the Bush administration today announced final critical-habitat designations that shirk protections needed for two endangered California plants – the California dandelion and the San Bernardino Mountains bluegrass. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designations fail to include all known locations of the plants and reduce the acreage of protected habitat from the originally proposed designations.
"These two plants inhabit areas that are the lifeblood of southern California – moist meadows,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protecting their habitat protects our water. It is preposterous that the Fish and Wildlife Service did not include all known locations of the plants in the critical habitat designation.”
The California dandelion (Taraxacum californicum) is an annual plant with golden-yellow flowers that only grows in the high-elevation, wet meadows of the San Bernardino Mountains. The San Bernardino Mountains bluegrass (Poa atropurpurea) is a perennial bunch grass that also grows in high-elevation, wet meadows in the San Bernardino, Laguna, and Palomar mountains, where it sways gracefully in the breeze. Its unobtrusive flowers lack petals.
Since critical habitat was originally proposed in the San Bernardino Mountains, bluegrass habitat was reduced by 16 percent, from 3,014 to 2,529 acres. The California dandelion habitat was increased slightly, from 1,930 to 1,954 acres, but the final habitat designation fails to capture key plant locations. Data for those locations were submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service, but were ignored in favor of abandoning those plants.
"Critical habitat is central to these plants’ survival and recovery,” said Anderson. “Endangered species with critical habitat are recovering twice as fast as those without it. Cutting habitat means endangered species may go extinct or cling to their deathbeds for years, driving up recovery costs and difficulty."
The slashing of habitat protection for these two plants follows a pattern of politically motivated attacks by the Bush administration on the recovery of rare plants in southern California. The Fish and Wildlife Service has zeroed out habitat for the Lane Mountain milkvetch, Coachella Valley milkvetch, and San Jacinto crownscale; the agency also has made big cuts in habitat protection for Munz’s onion, Bear Valley sandwort, ash-gray Indian paintbrush, southern mountain wild-buckwheat, and Nevin’s barberry.
Today’s announced final critical habitat designation will go into effect on September 15th.
To view the rule, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-SPECIES/2008/August/Day-14/e17522.htm
The scientific journal BioScience in April 2005 published a peer-reviewed report showing critical habitat works for species survival and recovery. To see the report, visit: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/esa/sub1.html
The Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.