Environmental Group Claims Climate Change Threatens Desert Tree

A Joshua tree at night. (InceptedNoggin via Wikipedia)

(CN) – An environmental advocacy group filed a suit Monday against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, challenging its decision not to list the Joshua tree as a threatened species.

In its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, WildEarth Guardians claims climate change is the major reason why the tree should be placed on the threatened species list. 

The environmental organization first filed its petition under the Endangered Species Act in 2015 to add the tree to the list. The Fish and Wildlife Service initially concluded that WildEarth Guardian’s concerns were backed by substantial scientific data, according to the 31-page complaint.  

The agency later rendered its final decision that the Joshua tree did not warrant listing as a threatened species.   

“In making this determination, the Service disregarded climate models showing the range of suitable habitat for the Joshua tree has contracted since the early 1900s due to increasing summer temperatures,” WildEarth Guardians states in its complaint. “The Service further summarily dismissed distribution models cited in Guardians’ petition showing that up to 90 percent of Joshua tree habitat will likely become unsuitable for the trees by the end of this century without rapid action to address climate change.” 

WildEarth Guardians did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Almost exclusively found in the Mojave Desert, the Joshua tree gets its name from Mormon travelers who named it after the biblical prophet of the same name after seeing its distinct limbs branching “upwards to heaven,” according to the complaint.      

The Joshua Tree, also known as the Yucca Palm, is an iconic part of the Southern California desert and largely resides in its namesake park, Joshua Tree National Park.

WildEarth Guardians claims the agency’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the best scientific and commercial data available.” 

The organization seeks a ruling to vacate the agency’s refusal to add the desert tree to the threatened list.

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