Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003


Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist, CBD 909.659.6053 x 306
Illeene Anderson, Southern California Botanist, CNPS 323.654.5943
Jim Andre, Botanist & Director, U.C. Granite Mountains Desert Research Center 760.733.4222

SAN FRANCISCO -- Conservationists have filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration for failing to respond to a citizens’ petition to list the Desert Cymopterus (Cymopterus deserticola), a rare plant found only in the West Mojave desert, as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal law requires a mandatory, non-discretionary “90 day” finding deadline for processing citizen petitions to list. Compliance with this deadline is critical to ensuring the survival and recovery of the Cymopterus. Bush’s Interior Secretary Gale Norton has had the petition for over a year, but not responded. Conservationists are asking the court to order Norton to comply with this mandatory deadline and issue a finding.

“The Bush administration is so busy trying to strip environmental protections that Secretary Norton cannot even respond to a scientific petition from the public to protect California’s unique native plant heritage.” said Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Idyllwild. “The decline of the Desert Cymopterus mirrors the decline of natural values and quality of life across the west Mojave region.”

The Desert Cymopterus is a perennial herb in the carrot family (Apiaceae). It is also known as the desert spring parsley. The Desert Cymopterus has a very distinctive and beautiful spherical flower, with the appearance of a dark purple drumstick. The “ball” is composed of hundreds of tiny florets.

Found only in the western Mojave Desert, the Desert Cymopterus ranges across eastern Kern county, western San Bernardino county and northern Los Angeles county. The plant lives in Mojave creosote bush scrub, desert saltbush scrub, and Joshua tree woodland where it shares the habitat with the desert tortoise and the Mojave ground squirrel.

The Desert Cymopterus formerly lived in the Antelope and Victor Valleys, but it is now gone due to habitat loss from urban sprawl, off-road vehicles and livestock grazing. Existing land management plans in the west Mojave fail to offer it any protection on public or private lands, and BLM’s soon to be released West Mojave Plan fails to consider conservation for the Cymopterus. Only listing under the ESA will extend adequate legal protection to ensure this native species is conserved and recovered.

“Conservation for this native plant has fallen through the cracks of the federal bureaucracy,” said Illene Anderson, CNPS Botanist. “Without ESA protections, it is likely the Desert Cymopterus will go extinct.”

The lawsuit comes shortly after several recent studies showing declines in the diversity and health of native plants. Recent reports by the World Conservation Union and the Nature Conservancy found that at least 30% of native flowering plants in the U.S. are currently at risk of extinction.

“Plants generate the oxygen we breathe, clean the water we drink, create the food we eat, as well as provide food and habitat for our native wildlife,” said Jim Andre, a Botanist and Director of the University of California-Riverside’s Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center. “We simply cannot successfully maintain a healthy environment without protecting native plants.”

CNPS sixth edition of the Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of California, shows 1438 of California's native plant species (nearly 25%) are at risk.


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