Lois Grunwald, Ventura - 805/644-1766; cell: 805/794-0225
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 2,117 acres as critical habitat for Yadon's piperia (Piperia yadonii), a perennial orchid found in Monterey County, California. The plant is currently listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The final rule was published in today's Federal Register.
Approximately 33 percent of the critical habitat consists of private land on the Monterey Peninsula and other areas of the county. State lands comprise 12 percent of the proposal, and ten percent consists of local agency lands. About 45 percent of the critical habitat acreage is owned or managed by the non-profit Elkhorn Slough Foundation, the Big Sur Land Trust, and the Del Monte Forest Foundation. A draft economic analysis for Yadon's piperia critical habitat was released in August 2007.
The Service has entered into a conservation agreement with Pebble Beach Company in which the company will implement management and conservation actions for Yadon's piperia. As a result, the Service has excluded 143 acres of Pebble Beach Company property from the final critical habitat designation.
Yadon's piperia has small white flowers on a slender stalk. The plant grows primarily in Monterey pine forests of the Monterey Peninsula. It also occurs in the Bishop pine and Gowen cypress forests of the Peninsula and in maritime chaparral. An estimated one-third to half of the Monterey pine forests that existed historically in the Monterey Bay area were destroyed.
The plant was listed as endangered under the ESA in August 1998 but the Service did not designate critical habitat at that time. The greatest threat to the species is alteration or loss of habitat due to urban, agricultural, and intensive recreational development such as golf courses and other manicured fields.
This critical habitat rule was completed in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity. Today's announcement is in compliance with a December 2004 court order. Copies of the final rule and related materials can be downloaded from http://www.fws.gov/ventura/ under "News Room." Links to the rule and other materials are located in the body of the news release.
Critical habitat is a term in the ESA. It identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protection. Federal agencies that undertake, fund, or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat. The designation does not affect wholly private or state actions on private or state lands, nor require non-federal lands to be positively managed for conservation.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fishery resource offices, and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.