For Immediate Release, July 27, 2007
Ileene Anderson, Wildlife Biologist, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943
Lisa Belenky, Staff Attorney, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 307
Karen Schambach, PEER, (530) 333-1106
Peirson’s Milk-Vetch Squashed by Feds Again:
Feds Propose to Further Shrink Habitat for Rare Plant
LOS ANGELES– Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a new proposal to protect critical habitat for the federally and state-protected Peirson’s milk-vetch, as mandated by federal court. The new proposal identifies 16,108 acres of land in the Algodones Dunes as habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of the rare plant, representing a 25-percent reduction from the current critical habitat designation. It further restricts the areas that would be enforced for conservation of the plant, which is found nowhere else in the United States save on a portion of southern California’s Algodones Dunes.
“This reduction of protected habitat will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Peirson’s milk-vetch to survive and recover,” says Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration’s M.O. of ignoring science apparently still rules.”
Just four years ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 52,780 acres of critical habitat for the Peirson’s milk-vetch. A year later that proposal was slashed by more than 60 percent to 21, 836 acres. Last year, a federal court judge found that the Service had ignored the recovery goal and the regulatory benefit to the species that critical habitat provides, and required the agency to reinstate the earlier designation while this new critical habitat designation was formulated.
"The Interior Department's decision to continue cut the amount of protected habitat defies the recommendations of local biologists with the best knowledge of what the milk-vetch needs to survive millions of menacing knobby tires," said Karen Schambach of PEER. "Clearly, the Bush administration is continuing its shoddy practice of allowing political considerations to trump science.”
“This designation wholly fails to address the habitat needed by the milk-vetch for the species to recover,” said Lisa Belenky, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court required the Service to consider the goals of the Endangered Species Act — to protect and recover imperiled species — but the Service doesn’t appear to have been listening.”
Located in the Sonoran desert of southeastern California’s Imperial County, the scenic and remote Algodones Dunes are the largest dune ecosystem in the United States. The dunes harbor at least 160 different animal and plant species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The dunes are heavily impacted by as many as 240,000 off-roaders on some weekends, and intensive use that destroys vegetation and wildlife habitat, pollutes the air, and creates criminal problems that stress law enforcement.
Center for Biological Diversity • Sierra Club
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility • Desert Survivors