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For Immediate Release, August 24, 2011          

Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943;

More Than 25,000 Acres of Protected Habitat Proposed for Endangered California Plant

LOS ANGELES Responding to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed protection of 25,704 acres of critical habitat for the endangered Coachella Valley milk vetch in Southern California. The new proposal includes four areas within the greater Coachella Valley in Riverside County, Calif., near Palm Springs. This new proposal recognizes that this rare plant, found only in the Coachella Valley, requires substantial habitat in order to ensure its survival and recovery.

The Coachella Valley milk vetch was put on the endangered species list in 1998. In 2004, the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Bush administration proposed just 3,583 acres of habitat for the endemic plant’s protection. Later that year, the Service designated zero acres for the species. The Center challenged that designation in 2009, which led to today’s new proposal for critical habitat.

This new designation includes most of the milk vetch’s habitat that has not yet been developed,” said Ileene Anderson, a Center biologist. “The Fish and Wildlife Service now recognizes that identifying critical habitat for this unique plant is essential — this proposed designation is a huge improvement over the previous zero-acre designation by the Bush administration.”

The Coachella Valley milk vetch (Astragalus lentiginosus var. coachellae) is a lovely plant: A short-lived perennial that measures up to a foot tall and is densely covered with short, white silky hairs that give it a silvery appearance. Related to peas, the milk vetch has flowers that are deep purple to violet and found on a dense, flowering stalk. Its seeds are enclosed in greatly inflated pods, which break off the plant, roll in the wind and effectively disperse its seeds. Its preferred habitat is active and stabilized sandy substrates in the Coachella Valley.

“This proposal gives this species a shot at survival and recovery, and the areas identified in it must be retained in the final habitat designation,” said Anderson. “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s own data show that endangered species with designated critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be recovering as those without it.”


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