Feds to Remove More Protections for Desert Plant Threatened With Extinction

For Immediate Release

Center for Biological Diversity
Contact: 

Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity,
(323) 490-0223 (cell) (323)-654-5943 (office)

Feds to Remove More Protections for Desert Plant Threatened With Extinction

LOS ANGELES - The Bush administration on Wednesday recommended another reduction
in protections for the endangered Lane Mountain milk-vetch by
downlisting it to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act.
This despite the fact that only four populations of the plant remain on
the planet; that recent studies indicate that the number of individuals
is declining; and at least 20 percent of the populations will be
destroyed by tank maneuvers on Fort Irwin.

"Instead of implementing species conservation, as is their charge, the
Fish and Wildlife Service under this administration continues its
assault on the Lane Mountain milk-vetch - pushing it even closer to
extinction," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for
Biological Diversity. "All the facts and science point to the need for
greater protection, certainly not less."

The Lane Mountain milk-vetch (Astragalus jaegerianus)
is only found in the central Mojave desert northwest of Barstow, Calif.
A majority of the plants are located within the recently expanded
boundaries of the Fort Irwin National Training Center, in areas that
will be heavily used for desert tank training.

On
April 8, 2005, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final critical
habitat proposal for the Lane Mountain milk-vetch and designated zero
acres for the unique pea-like plant. Agency officials admitted,
however, that preservation of the remaining milk-vetch on public lands
is critical to the survival of the species. On June 24th, the Service
settled a lawsuit with the Center regarding this flawed critical
habitat designation and agreed to issue a new proposed critical habitat
designation in 2010 and finalize the designation by 2011.

The Lane Mountain milk-vetch is a perennial plant that grows long vines
up through shrubs. Like most members of the pea family, it helps enrich
desert soils by converting nitrogen in the air into usable fertilizer.
The milk-vetch is scattered along a 20-mile-long region in San
Bernardino County. Much of its habitat is threatened with destruction
by off-road vehicles, tank training, mining, and suburban development -
threats that have been documented plants for years.

"On its way out the door, this administration is trying to undermine
Endangered Species Act protections by rewriting endangered species
regulations," Anderson said. "It is unclear why it seems intent on
pushing the Lane Mountain milk-vetch further towards extinction. But
science is on our side, and we'll fight to maintain and promote greater
conservation for this imperiled plant."

For more information on the species, please visit:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/plants/Lane_Mountain_milk-vetch/index.html

To read the Status Review, visit: https://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1955.pdf

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