Rediscovered, Highly Endangered San Francisco Plant Proposed for Endangered Species Status

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 669-7357

Rediscovered, Highly Endangered San Francisco Plant Proposed for Endangered Species Status

SAN FRANCISCO - In a major advancement for protection of one of San Francisco’s most important biological discoveries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is formally proposing to list the Franciscan manzanita as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The manzanita, down to only one plant rediscovered in the wild, is the first species to be proposed for federal protection by the Obama administration in response to a citizen petition.

The listing proposal follows a formal listing petition submitted by the Wild Equity Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and California Native Plant Society, as well as subsequent litigation by the Wild Equity Institute when the proposal was delayed. The proposed rule was finally released on the day the Fish and Wildlife Service’s responsive briefs were due in the litigation.

“The Endangered Species Act is the best available tool to protect and recover the rediscovered Franciscan manzanita,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Formal protection coupled with the efforts of the Bay Area’s best botanists can make this species once again a functioning part of San Francisco’s unique native biological community.”

“It’s good news for San Francisco’s natural heritage that this rare plant will get the triage it needs to survive and recover,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Protecting this species is in addition to the hundreds of species that will be considered for protection under the Center’s recent settlement agreement with Fish and Wildlife. Here’s hoping this signals that the Service has turned a corner on protecting endangered species and will be taking action to protect many, many more that are in need.”

“We welcome this decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and long-term protection of this species is now more likely as it continues its extraordinary conservation success story,” said Greg Suba of the California Native Plant Society.

In 2009 Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp rediscovered the Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphhylos franciscana) — an endemic plant presumed to have been extinct in the wild for more than 60 years — while driving an off-ramp from the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. This subtly charming flowering shrub was lost in the wild despite heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive: In 1947 botanists stood in front of earth-moving equipment in a desperate attempt to salvage the last known wild plants from a construction site before they were destroyed. The plants were sent to a botanical garden and never seen in the wild again until Dr. Gluesenkamp’s incredible discovery of a single shrub.

The rediscovered plant was subsequently moved to a more secure location in the Presidio to avoid disturbance from the ongoing construction of the Doyle Drive project. While the individual plant was saved from immediate threat, no formal protection was provided to help the species recover. If the proposed listing rule is finalized, it will provide formal Endangered Species Act protection for the plant, requiring creation of a binding recovery plan for the species; prioritizing federal funding for the species’ recovery efforts; and ensuring that critical habitat — areas currently occupied by the species and those needed for reintroduction — are protected.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will take comments on the listing proposal, including information about areas that should be designated as critical habitat for the species, for the next 60 days. A public hearing may also be held, if requested. To submit comments, go to the regulations.gov rulemaking portal and enter FWS–R8–ES–2010–0049 in the keyword search box.

For more information about the Franciscan manzanita, please visit the Wild Equity Institute website.

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The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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