Wildflower Once Thought Extinct, Up for Protection

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed the San Fernando Valley spineflower for protection under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species. The wildflower was believed to be extinct for 70 years, but once rediscovered, it took three petitions and a lawsuit to move the plant forward in the listing process.
     Historically, ten populations of the spineflower were known in Los Angeles and Orange Counties in California. By 1929, all those locations had disappeared due to development, and the flower was thought to be extinct until a population was discovered in Ventura County in 1999.
     The six-acre area of the new population was once slated for a development project, but the area has since been purchased by the state and is now an open space preserve, according to the action.
     The city of Calabasas petitioned the USFWS on behalf of the plant in 1999. The Service designated it as candidate species in 1999, and determined that it warranted listing under the ESA, but its listing has been continuously forestalled by other listing priorities since the
     In 2000, another population was discovered in Los Angeles County on land owned by a private land and farming company. The Service is working with the company to protect the plant, the agency said.
     The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy petitioned for the spineflower’s protection in 2000, and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) conservation organization petitioned the agency to protect the wildflower in 2004.
     In 2011, the plant became part of the agency’s six-year workplan, which was the result of a 2011 Multi-District Litigation (MDL) settlement agreement between the agency and the CBD and its allies, which had sued on behalf of hundreds of backlogged species waiting for listing protection. That MDL workplan is winding down at the end of September.
     “It’s wonderful news that this plant has finally been proposed for the Endangered Species Act protection. The Act can ensure it sticks around for future generations to enjoy,” CBD senior counsel John Buse said. “This added federal protection is needed and welcome, because the current plan is inadequate to safeguard this unique wildflower from development.”
     In addition to threats from development, the plant faces threats from grazing, agriculture, utility-line maintenance, recreation, wildfire, global climate change and non-native invasive plants, such as ripgut brome and other grasses, and Argentine ants, which could potentially displace native above-ground ants that disperse pollen for the plants.
     All of the threats to this scrubby wildflower are magnified by the fact that only two known small and isolated populations survive.
     The agency has determined that it does not currently have sufficient information to make a proposal for critical habitat, but it plans to do so within one year, according to the action.
     Comments are due Nov. 14, and requests for public hearings are due Oct. 31.

Photo credit: National Park Service

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