SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Environmentalists want the endangered Peirson's milk vetch protected under the Endangered Species Act as the species nears extinction and off-road vehicles continue to shred its habitat.
The Peirson's milk vetch is a fragile plant that exists only in the harsh conditions of the Algodones Dunes in California's Mojave Desert. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Department listed the plant as threatened in 1980 and upgraded its peril to endangered in 1998. During that time, off-road vehicle recreation increased exponentially, and has continued to increase.
The Center for Biological Diversity claims the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department failed in its duty by severely under-designating critical habitat. The Center and other environmental groups says that the 2008 final rule issued by the Fish and Wildlife Department understates the species' need for a habitat safe from off-road vehicles, and grossly overestimates the cost of designating habitat.
The Fish and Wildlife Department's failure to address and regulate the critical state of the plants habitat could drive it to extinction, the groups say.
Other species that depend on the plant, such as desert tortoises, could suffer as well environmentalists say. As early as 1990, the Fish and Wildlife Department reported that no colonies of mature plants could be found in heavily trafficked areas and reproductive success and plant health was down in moderate areas.
The Fish and Wildlife Department has determined that the Peirson's milk vetch is the most vulnerable of all dune plants, according to the complaint.
The Center demands that habitat designation be re-evaluated.
Lead counsel is Lisa Belenky.
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