For Immediate Release, August 14, 2019

Contact:

Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449, pdonnelly@biologicaldiversity.org
Tara Cornelisse, (971) 717-6425, tcornelisse@biologicaldiversity.org

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Las Vegas Bearpoppy

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition today asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give Endangered Species Act protection to the Las Vegas bearpoppy, a desert flower that has disappeared across much of the Mojave Desert.

The charismatic plant, which has showy yellow flowers and bear-claw leaves, has been pushed to the brink of extinction by development, motorized recreation, cattle grazing, mining and insufficient protection throughout its remaining range.

“Tough little desert flowers like the Las Vegas bearpoppy are at the very heart of the Mojave’s magic,” said Dr. Tara Cornelisse, a senior scientist at the Center. “If it doesn’t quickly get the federal protection it deserves, this beautiful wildflower will be bulldozed, trampled and blasted into extinction.”

Over the past 20 years the rare flower has disappeared across more than half of its range in Nevada’s Clark County and dramatically decreased across nearly 90 percent of its remaining habitat.

The bearpoppy’s successful reproduction is closely intertwined with the survival of rare specialist pollinators, including the imperiled Mojave poppy bee. Last year the Center filed a petition seeking federal Endangered Species Act protection for the bee, which pollinates two rare Mojave poppies — including the Las Vegas bearpoppy.

The bearpoppy faces escalating threats from development and from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s expansion of gypsum mining, which will destroy 150 acres the plant’s remaining habitat on public land.

“Clark County and the BLM have had 20 years to save this species from free-falling into extinction, and they’ve failed,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center’s Nevada state director. “Now only the Endangered Species Act can save this beautiful wildflower from destruction by mining and urban sprawl. It must be protected before it is too late.”

In 2001 the Las Vegas bearpoppy was included in the Clark County Multispecies Habitat Conservation Plan. The goal was to prevent it from declining to the point where it would need to be listed as a federal endangered species. But the so-called habitat conservation plan has actually helped to fuel its destruction by allowing development in bearpoppy habitat in return for ineffective, unenforceable mitigation measures.

Now Clark County is seeking to further weaken the conservation plan through a rider on proposed federal public lands legislation that would allow destruction of 296,000 additional acres of Mojave desert habitat.

Background

The Las Vegas bearpoppy thrives in gypsum-rich soils with cryptogamic crust, where the soil chemistry and structure prevent many other plants from establishing. Most bearpoppies are found on public lands surrounding Lake Mead, including Gold Butte National Monument. The remaining poppies are found in the Las Vegas Valley, where they are at imminent risk of extinction due to urbanization and fragmentation.

The Las Vegas bearpoppy, which produces pollen but no nectar, was first described as a species in 1843. In 1998 it inhabited at least 174 sites across Nevada. By 2005 it was found in less than a quarter of sites surveyed.

Overall 89 percent of the populations surveyed from 1996 to 2007 had lost thousands of bearpoppies.

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Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.