Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 16, 2023


Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449,

Protections Sought for Rare Mojave Desert Wildflower Threatened by Urban Sprawl, Energy Development

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity today petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect a rare desert wildflower under the Endangered Species Act.

The white-margined penstemon (Penstemon albomarginatus) grows in four distinct population centers: Clark and Nye counties in Nevada; San Bernardino County in California; and Arizona’s Mohave County.

“The white-margined penstemon is a beautiful emblem of the Mojave Desert’s biodiversity, but we’re at risk of losing it forever if action isn’t taken,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center. “Habitat loss and catastrophic drought have pushed these delicate wildflowers to the brink, and only the Endangered Species Act can save them now.”

A low-growing perennial that favors sandy washes and dunes, the white-margined penstemon has pretty pink flowers and leaves with white margins. It is threatened with extinction by urban sprawl, energy development, cattle grazing, off-highway vehicles, invasive species and catastrophic drought.

One of the leading threats to the wildflower is urban sprawl outside Las Vegas. The Clark County lands bill, proposed by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, (D-Nev.), would allow tens of thousands of acres of public land where the white-margined penstemon grows to be sold to developers for subdivisions and warehouses. A proposed second Las Vegas airport would also destroy penstemon habitat.

“Las Vegas sprawl has already consumed a quarter-million acres of prime Mojave Desert habitat, and now greedy developers are eyeing one of the last strongholds of the white-margined penstemon,” said Donnelly. “This rare wildflower needs the Endangered Species Act so it doesn’t end up under the blade of a bulldozer authorized by Sen. Cortez Masto’s sprawl bill.”

An additional threat to the white-margined penstemon is the development of NV Energy’s Greenlink West transmission line and associated energy build-out. The transmission line would cut through penstemon populations in Nye County, Nev.

A 2021 Fish and Wildlife Service-commissioned study gave the white-margined penstemon a 50% chance of going extinct within 50 years. This study did not factor in habitat loss due to the Clark County lands bill or Greenlink West, which compound the threats.

“The white-margined penstemon is facing death by a thousand cuts,” said Donnelly. “The global extinction crisis is hitting home right here in the Mojave Desert, and we’re fighting back to save this special little flower.”

White-margined penstemon (Penstemon albomarginatus). Photo credit: Patrick Donnelly. Images are available for media use.

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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