For Immediate Release, December 27, 2007
Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 or (323) 490-0223 (cell)
Feds to Allow Pebble Plains Plants to Go Locally Extinct:
Many Known Populations’ Habitats
Not Included in Critical Habitat Designation
LOS ANGELES— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined Wednesday that only 1,769 acres of habitat are critical for the survival and recovery of three federally protected pebble plains plants, leaving each plant with protections for only 25 percent or less of its currently occupied area. While this final designation represents a 17-percent increase from the critical habitat designation proposed in January 2007, it still fails to protect a bulk of habitat for these threatened species, depriving them of protected lands sufficient for their recovery and allowing for local extinctions.
Currently, these plants are known to inhabit much larger areas than those designated as critical habitat. The Bear Valley sandwort will have only 1,412 acres (23 percent) of 6,057 currently occupied acres federally protected, while the ash-gray Indian paintbrush will have only 1,769 acres (25 percent) of its currently occupied 7,008 acres protected. Worst of all, the southern mountain wild buckwheat will have only 904 acres (15 percent) of its currently occupied 6,066 acres protected. The critical habitat areas overlap significantly.
All of these “pebble plains” plants are so called because they are found on unique soils that are covered by pebbles and located in flat openings within the forest canopy. These species are found nowhere in the United States except around the Big Bear area of the San Bernardino Mountains.
"The protection of this subset of the currently occupied habitat will make it difficult, if not impossible, for these pebble plains plants to survive and recover,” says Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration’s M.O. of ignoring science apparently still rules.”
By not protecting the full range of the three plant species through critical habitat designation, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be allowing these plants to go extinct in unprotected areas, putting the species as a whole in peril.