For Immediate Release, June 9, 2009
Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity (323) 654-5943
Critical Habitat Proposed for Rare California Plant;
Proposal Includes Only a Third of Essential Habitat
LOS ANGELES— Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a new proposal for critical habitat for the federally threatened spreading navarretia stemming from a science-based legal challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity. The new proposal includes 6,872 acres – only 35 percent of the 19,399 acres identified by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2005 as being “essential for the conservation” of the species. This diminutive plant is only found in vernal pools and swales in Southern California, where much of its range has already been plowed under or paved over.
“This newest critical habitat proposal leaves out substantial areas where the plants currently occur with little scientific justification,” said Ileene Anderson, biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision clearly highlights the need for new leadership in Region 8 of the Fish and Wildlife Service in order to restore science to decision making in the Region.”
On October 18, 2005, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued final critical habitat for the spreading navarretia, designating a paltry 652 acres for the showy little plant. Subsequent investigations revealed that the designation had been tainted by political interference, and in 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to revisit the designation. But this new proposal still falls far short of the actual amount of habitat necessary to keep this plant, which is found nowhere else on the planet, from going extinct.
The spreading navarretia is a tiny annual plant that grows in the quintessentially California habitat known as vernal pools – seasonally inundated flat ponding areas that in spring host the development of not only rare annual plants but also rare insects like fairy shrimp. The navarretia is only known from California’s Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego counties in areas where these rare vernal pools occur. Much of its habitat has been destroyed by urban development, off-road vehicles, water diversions, grazing, and plowing for fire clearance and agricultural conversion. Only 30 small populations are left on Earth.
Public comment will be accepted for 60 days after the critical habitat proposal is published in the Federal Register. Comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2009-0039.