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Friday, February 15, 2008

Habitat Cut to 6 Acres:

Bush Administration Slashes Critical Habitat for 11th Southern California Endangered Species: Nevin’s Barberry Habitat Is Eliminated in All of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, Most of Riverside

February 13, 2008

Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943 or (323) 490-0223

LOS ANGELES— Perpetuating a profoundly anti-environment legacy, the Bush administration today reduced the amount of land that is critical to the survival and recovery of the Nevin’s barberry, an endangered plant, to only six acres. Only 3 percent of the plants in Riverside County are included in the critical habitat designation. Plants occurring in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties are completely ignored.

The Nevin’s barberry is a large, rounded shrub with stiff, branched stems. It produces small, bright-yellow flowers and juicy, yellow-red berries and grows in sandy and gravelly places below 2,000 feet.

“The beautiful Nevin’s barberry is already a highly endangered species,” said Ileene Anderson, biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Considering that plants are known from Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties, designating only six acres in Riverside County doesn’t pass the straight-face test.”

Critical habitat designation identifies the habitat that is essential to the survival and recovery of species protected by the Endangered Species Act and provides mechanisms for protecting that habitat from destruction or degradation. The Endangered Species Act mandates that critical habitat be designated for all federally listed species, allowing only limited exceptions. Despite its conservation value, and despite legal requirements, the Bush administration has avoided critical habitat designation. Only a small minority of federally listed species in the United States have designated critical habitat.

“Critical habitat is a must for rare plant survival and recovery, and species with critical habitat are recovering twice as fast as those without,” added Anderson. “Cuts in recovery habitat means endangered species may go extinct or cling to their deathbeds for years, driving up recovery costs and difficulty.”

The slashing of habitat protection for the Nevin’s barberry follows a pattern of political attack on recovery of rare plants in Southern California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also zeroed out habitat for the Lane Mountain milkvetch and San Jacinto crownscale, and made big cuts in habitat protection for Munz’s onion, Bear Valley sandwort, ash-gray Indian paintbrush, southern mountain wild-buckwheat, Mexican flannelbush, and the Vail Lake ceanothus.

The problem is most severe for plants. In California, critical habitat has been designated for less than 5 percent of federally listed plants as compared with fully 28 percent of California's federally listed animals.

The cutting of habitat protection comes amid a torrent of new studies showing declines in the diversity and health of native plants. Recent reports by the World Conservation Union and the Nature Conservancy found that at least 30 percent of native flowering plants in the United States are currently at risk of extinction.

To visit the Fish and Wildlife Service notice of listing, click here:

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