Agency Plans Endangered Status for Species of One

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The last Franciscan manzanita left in the wild should be listed as endangered and protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
     In 2009, a botanist noticed the shrub, which was thought to be extinct, while driving by a road construction project. The specimen and 25,000 pounds of the soil around it were relocated to the Presidio National Park, on the tip of San Francisco.
     Earlier this year the Wild Equity Institute, one of the conservation groups that filed the petition to list the species as endangered, sued Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar claiming that he had blown off the deadline to make a finding on the petition.
     The Institute claimed that the finding should have been completed by the end of 2010. The agency did not refer to the suit in the Sept. 8 finding.
     Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Institute, said in a telephone interview that the finding was a victory for the manzanita and for the citizen petition process, which allows anyone to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list a species.
     Plater pointed out it was the first time since a 2007 petition to list the polar bear that a citizen led effort had resulted in an endangered finding.
     The agency did not propose to designate critical habitat for the Franciscan manzanita because it says there is insufficient information to determine what the specific needs of the shrub are. The public is invited to comment specifically on the habitat needs of the manzanita and on any other aspect of the proposed listing, by Nov. 7, 2011.

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