Editor’s note: The San Fernando Valley spineflower is already identified by the state of California as an endangered species. The federal designation, if it goes through, would give it additional federal protection.
[CBD] – In response to a settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protections for 757 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to protect the San Fernando Valley spineflower as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. There are only two known populations of the flower, which is so rare it was once thought to be extinct.
“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,” said John Buse, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.
The San Fernando Valley spineflower is an annual plant in the buckwheat family that grows low to the ground with small, white flowers. Historically it was found in washes and sandy areas in only 10 locations in the foothills of Los Angeles and Orange counties. All 10 of these locations were lost to development, and scientists thought the species was extinct from 1929 until a population was discovered in 1999 in Ventura County and the Service placed the flower on the candidate waiting list for protection. In 2000 an additional population of the flower was discovered near Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County, within the footprint of the proposed Newhall Ranch development project.
The Service has received multiple petitions to protect the flower. In 1999 the city of Calabasas petitioned for the plant’s protection; the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy petitioned for its protection in 2000; and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for its protection in 2004. In 2011 the Center and the Service reached a landmark agreement requiring the agency to make decisions on all of the plants and animals on the candidate waiting list by the end of this fiscal year.
The Ventura County population is protected from development because it occurs in a designated open space preserve. The population in the footprint of the Newhall Ranch development has been proposed for management under a conservation plan developed by the company, under the state Endangered Species Act, that allowed the company to remove part of the population in exchange for creating preserves to protect about 75 percent of the plants. Protection under the federal Endangered Species Act will require the company and state to work with the Service to develop an expanded and supplemented conservation strategy.
“This added federal protection is needed and welcome, because the current plan is inadequate to safeguard this unique wildflower from development,” said Buse.
In addition to development, the plant is threatened by non-native invasive plants, Argentine ants, grazing, agriculture, utility-line maintenance, recreation and global climate change.
Following today’s proposed protection, the Service will accept public comment before finalizing protection for the plant in one year.
The plant’s scientific name is Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.