| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2006
Contact: Ileene Anderson, Ecologist, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943
“Critical Habitat” Proposed for Two Southern California Plants
Decision Would Wrongly Exclude Important Recovery Habitat,
LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is proposing formal designation of critical habitat for two imperiled plants in Riverside and San Diego counties as required by the Endangered Species Act. The proposal is the result of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and California Native Plant Society.
The Vail Lake Ceanothus is a large shrub with showy light-blue flowers that lives only in three small patches in southern Riverside County. It is threatened by overly frequent fire at all locations and development at one. All populations inhabit land that is included in the West Riverside Habitat Conservation Plan. A population on private property was excluded from the critical habitat designation because it is targeted for conservation under the Habitat Conservation Plan. The Fish and Wildlife Service has never developed a recovery plan for the Vail Lake Ceanothus under the Endangered Species Act.
The Mexican Flannelbush, a large shrub with gorgeous large golden-yellow flowers, is a species that is currently known from two small canyons in San Diego and two areas in Baja California. Historically the Mexican Flannelbush was known from several other locations in San Diego, but these were destroyed. The current populations in San Diego are within the boundaries of San Diego’s Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP). but because the Mexican Flannelbush is not covered by the MSCP, all populations are included in the proposed critical habitat designation. However, the proposal already considers the flawed conclusion that overlapping MSCP protections for other species might remove the need for flannelbush critical habitat.
Environmentalists support critical habitat designations for the two species but remain concerned that the proposal falls short in necessary conservation measures.
“Critical habitat should protect areas that are essential for both the immediate survival and ultimate recovery of these rare plants,” said Ileene Anderson, ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “However, in both instances, crucial areas for recovery are ignored. Critical habitat should provide a means to help the patient leave the hospital, not just keep them on life support.”
“The proposal also extends the government’s wrong-headed policy of excluding species populations from critical habitat protections when they’re located inside the boundaries of a habitat conservation plan, in this case the Western Riverside Multiple Species Conservation Plan,” said David Hogan, Director of the Urban Wildlands Program for the Center. “Developers and President Bush’s wildlife officials don’t like the higher conservation provided by critical habitat, instead favoring the much weaker, developer-friendly local habitat plans.”
Scientific studies show that species with designated critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as those that do not (see: www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/Programs/policy/ch/sub1.html). The Fish and Wildlife Service has no documentation to support its absurd claims that critical habitat does not provide additional protection to species or that these protections are outweighed by the costs of such designations (see: www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/activist/Manson-CH-FOIA.pdf).
Bush’s wildlife service has consistently slashed the size of critical habitat designations. From 2000 to 2003 the agency shrunk critical habitats by an average of 75 percent. In 2005 alone the agency slashed critical habitat protections for the threatened California Red-legged Frog (cut more than 80 percent); the endangered Sonoma population of the California Tiger Salamander (cut from a proposal of 73,336 acres to 0 acres); the threatened Central California population of the California Tiger Salamander (cut almost 50 percent); and the threatened Western Snowy Plover (cut nearly in half).
The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit conservation organization with more than 25,000 members dedicated to the protection of imperiled species and habitat.