Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Vandenberg Monkeyflower and Habitat Proposed for Federal Protections

Oct 28, 2013

For Immediate Release - October 28, 2013
Contact: Stephanie Weagley, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 805-512-6758; stephanie_weagley@fws.gov

Vandenberg Monkeyflower and Habitat Proposed for Federal Protections
 Service Seeks Public Comments 

Ventura - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today proposed to protect the Vandenberg monkeyflower as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and proposed to designate approximately 5,785 acres of critical habitat in Santa Barbara County, California.
 
The Service is asking the public, other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or other interested parties to review the proposal analysis and to provide the agency with additional scientific information to help make a final determination. The Service is looking for information concerning the species’ biology and habitat, threats to the species, and conservation efforts to protect the plant. Comments will be accepted through December 30, 2013, on the two proposed rules and may be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. The Docket Number for the proposed listing rule is FWS–R8–ES–2013–0078 and for the proposed critical habitat rule is FWS–R8–ES–2013–0049.  Comments can also be sent by U.S. mail to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn:  FWS–R8–ES–2013–0078 or FWS–R8–ES–2013–0049
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

The Vandenberg monkeyflower (Diplacus vandenbergensis) is a small annual herb with one to several yellow flowers on its purple-tinted stems. It grows in sandy openings of maritime chaparral and coastal scrub mixed with patches of native grasslands and is almost exclusively found on thin layers of wind-blown sand.  It is only known to occur at nine locations on Burton Mesa, a distinct geographic region located in western Santa Barbara County.  The mesa—a series of low, flat-topped hills—is located between the Purisima Hills to the north and the Santa Ynez River to the south.

The primary threat to Vandenberg monkeyflower and its habitat is the continued invasion of nonnative plant species, which are occurring within or adjacent to all locations where the species is found. It is also threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation due to the following: existing and future residential and commercial development, utility and pipeline maintenance activities, recreational activities, modified fire frequencies, small population sizes and climate change.

Of the approximately 5,785 acres proposed for critical habitat, 4, 674 acres are on state lands within the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve and La Purisima Mission State Historical Park that account for 84 percent of the area proposed and five out of the nine Vandenberg monkeyflower populations.  The remaining areas proposed for critical habitat consist of 796 acres on private lands, 38 acres on local agency lands, and 277 acres on Federal Department of Justice lands at the Lompoc Penitentiary.

Four populations of Vandenberg monkeyflower also occur in certain areas on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Service has exempted 4,159 acres of suitable habitat from a critical habitat designation due to the Base’s Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan that provides a conservation benefit to the species.

The Service is considering excluding portions of state lands from a critical habitat designation covered by management plans that provide conservation benefits to the Vandenberg monkeyflower, but there are concerns whether funding and staffing will be available to adequately implement the plans to protect the species in the foreseeable future. 

Critical habitat is a term in the ESA that identifies geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protections. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, preserve, or other conservation area, nor does critical habitat designation impact private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits. A draft economic analysis on the proposed critical habitat designation will be prepared at a later date.

For more information about the two proposed rules for Vandenberg monkeyflower, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/ventura.

A photo of Vandenberg monkeyflower may be viewed on the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region Flickr Page at:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/

The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/usfwspacificsouthwest, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSPacSWest, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/


-FWS-