News Release

Santa Cruz Cypress Proposed to be Reclassified from Endangered to Threatened

Service Seeks Public Comments

August 30, 2013

Media Contacts:
Stephanie Weagley, 805/512-6758; stephanie_weagley@fws.gov

Ventura, Calif.-- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing to reclassify Santa Cruz cypress from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposal reflects the best scientific and commercial information available about the status of and threats to the species suggesting it no longer meets the Service’s definition of endangered.

The Service is seeking comments or information from the public, other government agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties concerning the proposed rule. Comments will be accepted through November 04, 2013. Comments may be submitted electronically at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter the Docket Number and follow the instructions. The Docket Number for the proposed rule is FWS–R8–ES–2013-0092. Comments can also be sent by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn:  FWS–R8–ES–2013-0092 
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

A copy of the proposed rule is on public view at the Federal Register today. The rule will officially publish on September 03, and will be posted online at http://www.regulations.gov.

Santa Cruz cypress (Hesperocyparis abramsiana) is a tree in the cypress family that occurs in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties, California. There are five known populations that span a range of 15 miles from north to south totaling approximately 188 acres.

Since the Santa Cruz cypress was listed as an endangered species under the ESA in 1987, the majority of threats to the species have been reduced; a substantially larger number of individuals are now known to exist; and extensive conservation efforts have taken place throughout the species range, mainly through the preservation of lands by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the County of San Mateo. In addition, Santa Cruz cypress populations on privately-owned lands in Santa Cruz County receive some protection through state and county regulations.  

The majority of lands with Santa Cruz cypress populations have been secured from the primary threats (logging, agricultural conversion, and development) that existed at the time of listing.  These activities no longer threaten the species or are of minor concern. However, the populations still face ongoing threats to their long-term persistence.

Of the threats that remain, the primary concern is the species’ low level of regeneration due to the alteration of fire frequency, which impacts germination and establishment of new seedlings. Other threats include: competition with nonnative species, genetic introgression, vandalism and unauthorized recreational activities, and potentially climate change.

While these current threats will continue into the foreseeable future, the Service has determined that the imminence, severity and magnitude of ongoing threats do not indicate the Santa Cruz cypress is presently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Thus, downlisting to threatened status is warranted.

An endangered species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.

The Service anticipates current conservation efforts will continue for the species and we will continue to actively engage the public and our partners in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover Santa Cruz cypress and its habitat.

Requests for a public hearing on the proposed rule must be submitted in writing by October 17, 2013, to the Ventura Fish & Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003.

For more information about the reclassification proposal for the Santa Cruz cypress, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/ventura.

A set of Santa Cruz cypress photos may be viewed on the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region Flickr page at http://bit.ly/187483u