Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, June 14, 2022


Brendan Cummings, (951) 768-8301,

Commission Votes Wednesday on Protecting California’s Joshua Trees as Threatened Species

LOS ANGELES― The California Fish and Game Commission will vote Wednesday on whether to permanently protect western Joshua trees under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

Joshua trees are threatened by climate change and habitat destruction from development in their Mojave Desert home. If Joshua trees win permanent protection, state and local agencies will have to manage threats to them, including outlining a strategy to protect the species in the face of climate change.

“This vote is crucial for the western Joshua tree’s survival, and it’s a litmus test for how seriously California is taking climate change,” said Brendan Cummings, the Center for Biological Diversity’s conservation director and a Joshua Tree resident. “Joshua trees are on a path toward extinction and we can’t delay the action needed to save them. A vote against protection would become a tragic symbol of our state’s failure to adequately respond to the climate crisis.”

What: California Fish and Game Commission vote on whether to protect western Joshua trees under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

When: 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, June 15.

Where: California Department of Transportation Building, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. You can also join the meeting online via Zoom or by phone.

Who: Center conservation director Brendan Cummings, who filed the petition to protect western Joshua trees, will be available for comment after the hearing.

Recent studies show Joshua trees are already dying off because of hotter, drier conditions, with very few younger trees becoming established. Even greater changes are projected over the coming decades.

Scientists in 2019 projected that Joshua trees will be largely gone from their namesake national park by the end of the century. An earlier study projected the species will be lost from virtually its entire range in California.

Prolonged droughts are expected to be more frequent and intense over the coming decades, shrinking the species’ range and leading to more tree deaths. Higher elevations, where some Joshua trees might survive increasing temperatures and drying conditions, are at risk of fire because of invasive non-native grasses.

Approximately 40% of the western Joshua tree’s range in California is on private land, with only a tiny fraction protected from development. Current projections show that virtually all this habitat will be lost without stronger legal protections for the trees.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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