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Center for Biological Diversity / California Native Plant Society


Spreading navarretia critical habitat hacked in San Diego and Riverside Counties by political appointee Craig Manson.

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Tuesday, Oct 18 05

Contact: Illeene Anderson, Southern California Botanist, CNPS 323.654.5943; Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist, Center 760.366.2232 x306

SAN DIEGO – Continuing a disturbing anti-environmental trend, Craig Manson, a Bush political appointee in the Interior Dept. cut nearly all critical habitat protection for the Spreading navarretia, a rare plant found only in southern California. Manson excluded 18,747 acres in Riverside and San Diego counties recommended by botanists for protection, designating only 652 acres.


The slashing of habitat protection for the Spreading navarretia follows a pattern of political attack on recovery of rare plants in southern California. Manson also recently zeroed out habitat for the Lane Mountain milkvetch and San Jacinto crownscale, and made a big cut in habitat protection for the Peirson’s milkvetch and Munz’s onion.

"Scientists all over the world are raising the alarm about the current rate of extinction," said Illeene Anderson, Southern California Botanist with the California Native Plant Society. "Manson unethically cooked the books claiming wildly inflated costs for habitat protection, at the same time he completely ignored the clear benefits to society from conservation."

Critical habitat designation identifies the habitat that is essential to the survival and recovery of listed species and provides mechanisms for protecting that habitat from destruction or degradation. The Endangered Species Act mandates that critical habitat be designated for all federally listed species, allowing only limited exceptions. Despite its conservation value, and despite legal requirements, the Bush administration has avoided critical habitat designation. Only a small minority of federally listed species in the U.S. have designated critical habitat.

The problem is most severe for plants. In California critical habitat has been designated for less than 5% of federally listed plants as compared with fully 28% of California's federally listed animals.

"Critical habitat is a must for wildlife survival and recovery, and species with critical habitat are recovering twice as fast as those without," said Daniel R. Patterson, an Ecologist with the Center in Joshua Tree. "The Bush administration’s cuts of recovery habitat means endangered species may go extinct or cling to their death-beds for years, driving up recovery costs and difficulty."

The scientific journal BioScience in April 05 published a peer-reviewed report showing critical habitat works for species survival and recovery.

Healthy native plant communities provide critical ecosystem services we all need to survive. "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 Granite Mountains Research Center. "We simply cannot successfully maintain a healthy environment without protecting native plants."

The cutting of habitat protection comes amid a torrent of new 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.

CNPS released its sixth edition of the Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of California in 2002, which shows 1438 of California's native plant species (nearly 25%) are at risk.

On July 8, 2002 a federal judge ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate critical habitat for the spreading navarretia in response to a necessary lawsuit from The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and the Center for Biological Diversity (Center).

The five imperiled SoCal plants that Interior’s Manson slashed habitat for:

Spreading navarretia - Navarretia fossalis (Threatened)
Location: In 1998, fewer than 30 populations existed in the U.S., primarily in vernal pool ecosystems. Nearly 60% are concentrated in three locations: Otay Mesa in southern San Diego County, along the San Jacinto River in western Riverside County, and near Hemet in Riverside County.
Threats: On-going degradation of vernal pools and their destruction due to urbanization, agricultural practices, off-road vehicles, flood control and widespread habitat loss.

Munz's onion - Allium munzii (Endangered)
Location: 13 populations in Western Riverside County CA, including the Gavilan Hills, Harford Springs County Park, Paloma Valley, Skunk Hollow, Domenigoni Hills, Bachelor Mountain and the Elsinore Mountains.

San Jacinto Valley crownscale - Atriplex coronata var. notatior (Endangered)
Location: In 1998, 11 population centers were known, primarily associated with the San Jacinto River and Old Salt Creek tributary drainages in the San Jacinto, Perris, Menifee and Elsinore Valleys of western Riverside County CA.

For more detailed information see the FWS 10/13/98 final listing rule covering these inland species.

Lane Mountain milk-vetch - Astragalus jaegerianus (Endangered)
Location: Only known to occur at four western Mojave Desert sites north to northeast of Barstow CA, near the Army's Ft. Irwin tank base, in San Bernardino County. The plants at each site are widely scattered.
Threats: Proposed U.S. Army Ft. Irwin expansion and related tank training, military vehicle trespass on to off-limits BLM lands, dry wash recreational gold mining, off-road vehicle use, increasing fire frequency and associated fire suppression activities.

Peirson's milk-vetch - Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii (Threatened)
Location: Algodones Sand Dunes, Sonroan Desert of eastern Imperial County CA.
Threats: Intensive off-road vehicle use. Pipelines and water projects.

For more detailed information see the FWS 10/6/98 final listing rule covering these desert species.

Call for photos of plants.




  Habitat cuts in acres      
Scientific Name Common Name
Draft Proposal
Final Proposal
Essential Habitat*
Astragalus  jaegerianus Lane Mountain milkvetch
Astragalus magdelanae var. peirsonii Peirson's milkvetch
Astragalus lentiginosus var. piscinensis Fish Slough milkvetch
Allium munzii Munz's onion
Atriplex coronata var. notatior San Jacinto Valley Crownscale
Navarretia fossalis Spreading Navarretia


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