For Immediate Release, February 26, 2014

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

 Endangered Species Act Saves Two Plants Unique to California's Death Valley

LOS ANGELES— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that Endangered Species Act protections have successfully recovered the Eureka Valley evening primrose and Eureka dune grass. Both plants grow on sand dunes in the area of Death Valley National Park and nowhere else on Earth; they were protected under the Act in the late 1970s because of threats from off-road vehicle recreation. Protecting their habitat from vehicles allowed their populations to stabilize, leading to today’s proposal to remove them from the endangered species list.

Eureka dune grass
Eureka dune grass photo courtesy Flickr Commons/Dean Wm. Taylor. Photos are available for media use.

“These two unique California plants join the long list of species the Endangered Species Act has saved from extinction,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “From the blue whale to Eureka dune grass, this remarkably successful law has prevented the extinction of our country’s most vulnerable wild heritage for 40 years now,”

The plants were protected in 1978, and the Fish and Wildlife Service published a recovery plan in 1982 outlining actions to improve their status. Endangered Species Act protection spurred the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service to implement on-the-ground measures to protect the plants from off-highway vehicles. A 2007 status review indicated the plants were no longer in danger of extinction.

Other habitat protections for the plants will remain in place, including Death Valley National Park’s Wilderness and Backcountry Stewardship Plan, which will guide park management for the next 20 years. The plants are still vulnerable to climate change, seed predation and invasive plants, so their status will continue to be monitored.

“Though the primary threat from off-road vehicles has been removed, we remain concerned about invasive plants and potential effects of drought and climate change. Ongoing funding will be needed for removal of exotics and for monitoring to make sure the plants are protected for future generations,” added Curry.

The evening primrose grows to 2.5 feet tall and has white flowers that fade to pink as they mature. The flowers provide nectar for butterflies and bees in the desert sand dunes. The number of primroses in the population fluctuates yearly with rainfall. In 2013 more than 20,000 of the primroses blossomed in the park.

Eureka dune grass grows in clumps that trap sand at its base, forming mounds or hummocks. The grass is unique in that it can live for decades and reproduction is slow. Its seeds provide food for insects and small mammals in the desert. More than 8,000 dune grass plants are estimated to live in the park today.

These two plants join a growing list of species that have been declared no longer in danger of extinction in recent weeks. Two fish from California and Oregon were also recently proposed for delisting, the Modoc sucker and the Oregon chub, which benefited from habitat improvements, scientific recovery plans and officially designated critical habitat protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 675,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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