Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Lane Mountain Milk-vetch Plant Remains in Danger of Extinction

May 01, 2014

Contact: Jane Hendron, 760-431-9440 ext. 205
Jane_hendron@fws.gov

 

Lane Mountain Milk-vetch Plant Remains in Danger of Extinction
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Determines Downlisting to Threatened Not Warranted

Ventura, CA – Following a status review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has determined Lane Mountain milk-vetch (Astragalus jaegerianus) remains at risk of extinction and does not warrant downlisting to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

An advance copy of the status review, known as a 12-month petition finding, is available today at the Federal Register.

Lane Mountain milk-vetch is an herbaceous perennial member of the pea family. It is often found growing within a nurse shrub such as California buckwheat. Experts believe there is a mutually beneficial relationship whereby the nurse shrub provides Lane Mountain milk-vetch plants with structural support, protection from weather extremes, and some protection from predators. In return, the litter and roots of the milk-vetch may provide the nurse shrub with soil nitrogen.

In a 5-year review on the status of Lane Mountain milk-vetch completed in 2008, the Service recommended downlisting the plant to threatened. The Service was subsequently petitioned by the Pacific Legal Foundation in 2011 to downlist the plant. Based on a determination that the petition to downlist milk-vetch may be warranted, a status review was initiated in 2012.

In preparing the status review, the Service considered information from ongoing research on the life history of the species, and records of annual population monitoring data not available when the 2008 5-year review was completed.

New information indicates that despite ongoing conservation efforts, Lane Mountain milk-vetch populations are, in fact, declining. Threats identified at the time of listing including: altered fire regimes, off-highway vehicle use, and competition from invasive plants continue to affect the species and its habitat. Impacts associated with climate change have also been identified as a threat to the species; specifically, increasing temperatures and reduced precipitation are likely limiting the plant’s ability to survive and successfully recruit new individuals, and may also be affecting the reduction of cover and number of nurse plants. 

It has an extremely limited distribution consisting of four populations in the central Mojave Desert north of Barstow, San Bernardino County, California. Approximately half of the distribution of the species occurs on Department of the Army land at Fort Irwin National Training Center (Fort Irwin) with almost all the remaining distribution occurring on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A very small portion occurs on private land.

Conservation and land management measures undertaken by the Army and BLM to protect habitat for the species include establishing two conservation areas for the species on Fort Irwin where military training will not occur, and a third area that will receive limited training use. In addition, the BLM designated all their land where Lane Mountain milk-vetch occurs as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and established goals for managing the land to avoid impacts to the plant.

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 12-month finding will officially publish on May 2, and will be available on www.regulations.gov. In the search box enter Docket Number FWS–R8–ES–2014–0011. A copy of the finding and additional information about the milk-vetch is available online at http://www.fws.gov/ventura.

Photos of the plant are available on the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region Flickr Page. 

The Service encourages the public to continue to submit any new information concerning Lane Mountain milk-vetch that would assist in monitoring and evaluating the status of this species. Comments and information should be sent to Stephen P. Henry, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA, 93003.

The ESA 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 law’s ultimate goal is to recover species and conserve the ecosystems they depend on so they no longer need protection under the ESA.

-FWS-

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 http://www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.