Feds agree to Protect 802 acres for So-Cal rare plant
9/3/2009--Thanks to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally proposed protected habitat for California's rare San Diego ambrosia. The tenacious blue-gray herb, threatened by urban sprawl, agricultural expansion, off-road vehicle use, and other activities, was first protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2002 after a petition by the Center and allies. But due to political interference with endangered species decisions that ran rampant under the Bush administration, the plant was never granted federally protected habitat. Now, the Service has proposed to set aside 802 acres for the plant. Unfortunately, that acreage covers only places where the ambrosia is currently found -- and its populations have declined dramatically from more than 50 to just 18, so it needs much more protected land. "This proposal is a step in the right direction," said Center biologist Ileene Anderson, "but designating only existing areas where the plant is found provides no chance for recovery, confining the species to a potential deathbed of extinction."