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CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681
Endangered California Plant Gains 9,600 Acres of Protected Habitat
LOS ANGELES - February 12 - Responding to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized protection of 9,603 acres of critical habitat for the endangered Coachella Valley milk vetch in Southern California. The new proposal includes four areas within the greater Coachella Valley in Riverside County, Calif., near Palm Springs.
The Coachella Valley milk vetch was put on the endangered species list in 1998. In 2004, under the Bush administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed just 3,583 acres of habitat for the endemic plant’s protection. Later that year the Service designated zero acres for the species. The Center, which has been working to protect the plant since 1998, challenged that designation in 2009, which led to today’s final rule protecting more than 9,600 acres of critical habitat.
“Protecting critical habitat for this lovely flower will help prevent its extinction and will safeguard imperiled sand dune areas that are an important part of California’s natural heritage,” said Tierra Curry, conservation biologist with the Center.
The Coachella Valley milk vetch is a short-lived perennial that measures up to a foot tall and is densely covered with short, white silky hairs that give it a silvery appearance. Related to peas, the milk vetch has flowers that are deep purple to violet. Its seeds are enclosed in greatly inflated pods, which break off the plant, roll in the wind and effectively disperse its seeds. Its preferred habitat is active and stabilized sandy substrates in the Coachella Valley.
The flower is threatened by development, groundwater pumping, nonnative plant species, off-highway vehicle impacts and alteration of stream flows.
Endangered species with protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be recovering as those without habitat protection.
“Today’s habitat protection is a huge improvement over the previous zero-acre designation by the Bush administration, but it’s disappointing that the final protected area doesn’t include 16,000 additional acres that were proposed for protection in 2011,” said Curry.