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For Immediate Release, April 11, 2008

Contact: Andrew Orahoske, Center for Biological Diversity, (406) 529-7591

Two Rare Plants in Southern Oregon and
One in Southern California to Receive Habitat Protection

MEDFORD, Ore. & SAN DIEGO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that requires the agency to designate critical habitat for three imperiled plants, the Cook’s lomatium, large-flowered woolly meadowfoam, and San Diego ambrosia. All three plants were listed as endangered species in 2002, but the government failed to designate critical habitat for the plants as directed by the Endangered Species Act. Under the terms of the settlement, Fish and Wildlife must propose critical habitat for the lomatium and meadowfoam by July 15, 2009, and finalize the habitat designation by July 15, 2010. For the ambrosia, the agency must propose critical habitat by August 20, 2009 and finalize it August 20, 2010.

“Critical habitat is one of the most important safety nets for species listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Andrew Orahoske, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These plants, along with all species dependent on vernal pools, will benefit greatly from the added protections afforded by a critical habitat designation.”

“The San Diego ambrosia is in desperate need of critical habitat,” said Ileene Anderson, staff biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Critical habitat is a must for rare plant survival and recovery, and species with critical habitat are recovering twice as fast as those without.”

Cook’s lomatium is a perennial member of the carrot family, first described as a species in 1986, with pale, yellow flowers and pumpkin-shaped fruits. Only a handful of populations remain in the Illinois River Valley and the Rogue Valley’s Agate Desert. Large-flowered woolly meadowfoam is a delicate annual with stems and leaves that are covered with short, fuzzy hairs. It is restricted to just a few sites in the Agate Desert. Both species rely entirely on a few disappearing seasonal wetlands and vernal pools.

The San Diego ambrosia is a perennial blue-gray herb with clusters of tiny light yellow flowers that bloom in summer and fall. The ambrosia grows on flat or gently sloping grasslands, the upper terraces of rivers and drainages, in coastal sage scrub, and adjacent to vernal pools. Populations of San Diego ambrosia occur in San Diego and Riverside Counties in California and in the northern state of Baja, Mexico.

Once an area is designated as critical habitat, the Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to ensure that any activities they authorize do not destroy or adversely modify that habitat. The Endangered Species Act mandates that critical habitat be designated for all federally listed species. Despite the conservation value and legal requirement of critical habitat, the Bush administration has consistently failed to designate it for endangered species.

All three plants are threatened by sprawling urban growth, off-road vehicle abuse, nonnative species, and destruction of wetlands. At the time of listing, both reported and unreported fills of vernal pool wetlands were occurring continually. Designating critical habitat will add a crucial layer of protection and promote the expansion and eventual recovery of these species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and habitat.

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