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For Immediate Release, September 12, 2008

Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 490-0223 (cell) (323)-654-5943 (office)

Feds to Remove More Protections for Desert Plant Threatened With Extinction

LOS ANGELES— The Bush administration on Wednesday recommended another reduction in protections for the endangered Lane Mountain milk-vetch by downlisting it to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. This despite the fact that only four populations of the plant remain on the planet; that recent studies indicate that the number of individuals is declining; and at least 20 percent of the populations will be destroyed by tank maneuvers on Fort Irwin.

“Instead of implementing species conservation, as is their charge, the Fish and Wildlife Service under this administration continues its assault on the Lane Mountain milk-vetch – pushing it even closer to extinction,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “All the facts and science point to the need for greater protection, certainly not less.”

The Lane Mountain milk-vetch (Astragalus jaegerianus) is only found in the central Mojave desert northwest of Barstow, Calif. A majority of the plants are located within the recently expanded boundaries of the Fort Irwin National Training Center, in areas that will be heavily used for desert tank training.

On April 8, 2005, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final critical habitat proposal for the Lane Mountain milk-vetch and designated zero acres for the unique pea-like plant. Agency officials admitted, however, that preservation of the remaining milk-vetch on public lands is critical to the survival of the species. On June 24th, the Service settled a lawsuit with the Center regarding this flawed critical habitat designation and agreed to issue a new proposed critical habitat designation in 2010 and finalize the designation by 2011.

The Lane Mountain milk-vetch is a perennial plant that grows long vines up through shrubs. Like most members of the pea family, it helps enrich desert soils by converting nitrogen in the air into usable fertilizer. The milk-vetch is scattered along a 20-mile-long region in San Bernardino County. Much of its habitat is threatened with destruction by off-road vehicles, tank training, mining, and suburban development – threats that have been documented for years.

“On its way out the door, this administration is trying to undermine Endangered Species Act protections by rewriting endangered species regulations,” Anderson said. “It is unclear why it seems intent on pushing the Lane Mountain milk-vetch further towards extinction. But science is on our side, and we’ll fight to maintain and promote greater conservation for this imperiled plant.”

For more information on the species, please visit:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/plants/Lane_Mountain_milk-vetch/index.html

To read the Status Review, visit: https://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1955.pdf

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with more than 180,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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