SC-G 97-102

Refer:

Dr. Gary Wallace or Scott Eliason, Carlsbad, California - 760/431-9440
Susan Saul, Portland, Oregon - 503/231-6121

September 30, 1997

COMMENTS INVITED ON RECOVERY PLAN FOR SAN BERNARDINO MOUNTAINS PLANTS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft recovery plan for five imperiled plants found only in California's San Bernardino Mountains. The plants are the endangered Cushenbury buckwheat, Cushenbury milk-vetch, San Bernardino Mountains bladderpod, and Cushenbury oxytheca, and the threatened Parish's daisy. All of these plants received Federal Endangered Species Act protection in 1994.

Parish's daisy, a small perennial herb of the aster family, can grow up to 12 inches tall and displays deep rose or lavender flowers from May through June. Botanists believe 50 populations of Parish's daisy now exist; at the time these plants were listed, only 25 populations of this plant, approximately 16,000 individual plants, were known. The plant is found at elevations up to 6,400 feet from White Knob to Pioneertown.

A low, densely matted perennial of the buckwheat family, Cushenbury buckwheat has whitish-cream flowers, darkening to a reddish or purple color from May through June. This plant occurs within a 25-mile area in the White Mountains Management Unit of the San Bernardino National Forest east to Rattlesnake Canyon. The total population is believed to be 13,000 individual plants, with only a quarter of known populations having more than 1,000 plants each.

Some 33 populations of Cushenbury milk-vetch are scattered from Furnace Canyon southeast to the head of Lone Valley. Population estimates place the number of individual plants between 5,000 and 10,000. This plant is a small silvery-white perennial member of the pea family, with clusters of purple flowers in bloom from March to May.

San Bernardino Mountains bladderpod is known from two areas in Bear Valley. The total population consists of no more than 35,000 plants. This eight-inch-tall, silvery, short-lived perennial member of the mustard family features yellow flowers.

Cushenbury oxytheca is found near Cushenbury Spring; Cushenbury, Marble, Arctic, Wild Rose, and Furnace canyons; near the Green Lead gold mine; north of Holcomb Valley; in the White Mountains Management Unit; along the Helendale Fault near Tip Top Mountain; Mineral Mountain; and Rose Mine. This small wiry annual is a member of the buckwheat family, about one foot tall, with small white to rose or greenish-yellow flowers. In 1990, there were fewer than 3,000 plants in four locations; more recent surveys have located at least another 11 populations. Because this plant is an annual, the number of individual plants may fluctuate depending on rainfall and other climate conditions, however, its overall low numbers make this species susceptible to extinction from random natural events.

All of the plants are restricted to soils derived from limestone, dolomite, and other carbonate rock. Limestone mining is the primary threat to their existence, but urban development and offroad vehicle use also put the plants at risk. Approximately 76 percent of all of the populations of these five species are under claim or in private ownership, so they are subject to mining or threatened by other disturbances. Lesser threats to these plants' habitat include sand and gravel mining, off-highway vehicle use, recreational and urban development, and power line and hydroelectric development projects.

Threats other than habitat destruction may be reduced or even eliminated through Forest Service and BLM land management actions, such as rerouting of off-highway vehicles and access controls, fencing populations adjacent to development, and stopping unauthorized activities. The Forest Service is already developing a strategy to conserve carbonate plants on the San Bernardino National Forest while accommodating other land uses and is coordinating with stakeholders and agencies in this plan.

The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to recover species to levels where protection under the act is no longer required. Recovery plans are essentially blueprints for Federal and State agencies and private organizations, and do not obligate the expenditure of funds or require that actions be implemented.

Actions needed to prevent extinction of these plants include protecting significant existing populations by developing a system of reserves on Federally owned land, restoring habitat and reintroducing plants or enhancing their populations, identifying and implementing appropriate management measures, monitoring populations, and surveying.

Partners in the recovery efforts, besides the Service, are the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and California Department of Fish and Game. Federal land management agencies must develop an adequate habitat reserve system under existing mining laws and their mandates to manage land and conserve endangered species. If mining issues are resolved quickly, recovery for most of these plants could be feasible as early as the year 2010.

Comments from the public are invited on this draft plan until December 29, 1997, and should be sent to the Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Field Office, 2730 Loker Avenue West, Carlsbad, California 92008. Requests for copies of the plan also should be addressed to this office.

The Service published a notice of the availability of the draft recovery plan for the San Bernardino Mountains carbonate endemic plants in the Federal Register on September 30, 1997.

x x x