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For Immediate Release, September 4, 2012

Contact:  Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 669-7357
Daniel Gluesenkamp, California Native Plant Society, (415) 939-6681

San Francisco's Rediscovered Franciscan Manzanita Gains Endangered Status,
300 Acres of Proposed Critical Habitat

SAN FRANCISCO— One of San Francisco’s most important biological discoveries, the Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana), will gain Endangered Species Act protection, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency is also proposing to designate more than 300 acres of critical habitat for the manzanita in 11 different areas of San Francisco, including property owned by the Presidio Trust and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. Once finalized, this will be the first protected critical habitat for any terrestrial species in San Francisco County.

“The Endangered Species Act gives us the best tools available to protect and recover the rediscovered Franciscan manzanita,’ said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Coupled with the help of the Bay Area’s best minds in the manzanita business, the day will come when this species is once again a functioning part of our biological community.”

“It’s great this native San Franciscan plant is getting protections that will allow it to flourish again,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This hopefully will bolster efforts to preserve the last remnants of San Francisco’s biological heritage.”

The protection of "critical habitat" is closely tied to the ultimate recovery of imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act. Species with designated critical habitat are generally twice as likely to be recovering as those without it. Because all historic habitats for Franciscan manzanita have been destroyed by development, the Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing critical habitat in areas suitable for reintroduction and establishment of new manzanita populations.

Critical habitat is proposed for five locations within the Presidio Trust (Fort Point, Fort Point Rock, World War II Memorial, Immigrant Point and Inspiration Point) and five areas within San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and other lands (Corona Heights, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Diamond Heights, Bernal Heights and Bayview Park).

The final listing rule, which will publish in the Federal Register tomorrow, will become effective Oct. 5, 2012. The Fish and Wildlife Service will accept public comments on the critical habitat proposal for 60 days.

In 2009, Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp rediscovered a single Franciscan manzanita, a species that had been presumed extinct in the wild for over 60 years. This subtly charming flowering shrub was endemic to San Francisco, but was tragically lost in the wild despite heroic acts by botanists. In an act of desperation, botanists stood in front of earth-moving equipment in 1947 to rescue the last known wild plants from a construction site. The plants were sent to a botanical garden, and no one found the plant in the wild again until Dr. Gluesenkamp’s discovery.

The last individual manzanita plant was subsequently moved to a more secure location in the Presidio to avoid disturbance from the ongoing construction of the Doyle Drive project. While the individual plant was saved from immediate threat, formal protection was needed to ensure the species can recover. Endangered Species Act protection can benefit the species by creating a recovery plan, prioritizing federal funding for recovery efforts, and helping to protect critical habitats.

The Wild Equity Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and California Native Plant Society filed a formal listing petition seeking federal protection for the manzanita in 2009, and the Wild Equity Institute sued in 2011 when the listing proposal was delayed.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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