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For Immediate Release, November 30, 2010

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

Critical Habitat Protected for Endangered California Plant

SAN DIEGO— In response to litigation from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 783 acres of critical habitat for the endangered San Diego ambrosia, a plant that only grows in small parts of California and Mexico. Critical habitat is essential for recovery of this rare plant, whose numbers have declined drastically from more than 50 populations to just 18. This final designation includes three general areas in the western part of Riverside County, covering 189 acres, and four general areas, covering 594 acres, in San Diego County.

“With protection of its habitat, the San Diego ambrosia now has a chance at survival,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The ambrosia and thousands of other species make up what has long been recognized as a severely threatened biodiversity hotspot in Southern California. It is time to end urban sprawl and protect the last vestiges of the natural world in this important area.”

Formally listed as an endangered species in 2002, populations of San Diego ambrosia currently occur only in San Diego and Riverside counties in California and in the northern state of Baja, Mexico. Today’s designation of critical habitat provides key protections for the ambrosia, which has been eliminated from many areas primarily through urban development, road building, golf courses and other urbanizing effects.

“While the critical habitat designation does not preclude development, for a species like the ambrosia that is already teetering on the brink of extinction, identifying and protecting key areas is crucial to its survival,” said Anderson.

However, the ambrosia needs not merely to cling to existence by a thread but also to recover. Since only locations where the plant currently occurs are included in critical habitat, there’s little chance for actual recovery of the species.

“The San Diego ambrosia is in desperate need of critical habitat not just for its existence but for its recovery,” said Anderson. “This designation will safeguard where the plants currently are growing, but it completely fails to ensure that they will be able to recover to levels to prevent extinction.”

The San Diego ambrosia is a low, creeping, perennial blue-gray herb that spreads by means of slender, branched, underground rhizome-like roots. Clusters of tiny, light-yellow flowers bloom summer through fall. Generally found on flat or gently sloping grasslands and on upper terraces of rivers and drainages, the ambrosia is also found in openings in coastal sage scrub, adjacent to vernal pools, and on rare occasions in moderately disturbed sites such as roadsides.

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