Sacramento Fish & Wildlife
3310 El Camino Avenue, Suite 130
Sacramento CA 95821-6340
Contact: Patricia Foulk - 916/979-2710
May 26, 1999
TWO RARE SIERRA NEVADA NATIVE PLANTS
RECEIVE FEDERAL PROTECTION
SACRAMENTO, CaliforniaTwo rare plants found only in the foothills of California's
Sierra Nevada are being protected under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service announced today. The Service designated Ione buckwheat as endangered and
Ione manzanita as threatened.
Ione buckwheat, a small perennial herb with clusters of white flowers appearing from
June to October, is found at 11 locations in Amador County. Ione manzanita, a perennial
low-growing shrub with olive-green leaves, berry-like fruit, and small white to pinkish
urn-shaped flowers, is restricted to 17 sites primarily in Amador County as well as
isolated locations in Calaveras County. These two plants are threatened by mining,
clearing of vegetation for agriculture and fire protection, habitat fragmentation,
off-road vehicle use, and residential and commercial development.
To list a species as endangered, the Service must determine it is in danger of becoming
extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A threatened designation
means a species is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.
The State of California has designated the Ione buckwheat as endangered.
Both plants are native to the sandy clay soils of the Ione formation, an ancient
mineral deposit that occurs in the western Sierra Nevada foothills. The soils of the Ione
formation are unusual because they have characteristics of soils normally found in
tropical conditions. They are heavily surface-mined for valuable minerals and products
including lignite, a wax used for industrial purposes, silica, quartz sands, and gravels.
Reclamation of the mined areas does not replace the extracted soils these plants require.
"Today's listing of the Ione buckwheat and manzanita is an important step toward
assuring the survival of these rare native species," said Mike Spear, the Service's
California/Nevada Operations Office Manager. "We look forward to working closely with
local jurisdictions and landowners to insure the conservation and eventual recovery of
The listing will have no effect on activities such as livestock grazing on private
lands, clearing a defensible space for fire protection around a personal residence, and
residential landscaping, including irrigation, that are in compliance with State laws, he
The Endangered Species Act does not prohibit "take" of listed plants on
private lands, but landowners must comply with state laws protecting imperiled plants.
Consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service come into play for private and other
landowners only when Federal funding or permits are required for activities that may
affect listed species.
Amador County has taken steps to protect rare plants that grow along Ione area
roadsides through designating environmentally sensitive areas. The California Department
of Transportation also designated a segment of State Route 88 near Ione as a Botanical
Management Area, which is managed to encourage regrowth of native plants along the highway
right-of-way. Two small preserves also provide habitat for these plants: the Apricum Hill
Ecological Reserve, managed by the California Department of Fish and Game, and the Bureau
of Land Management's Ione Manzanita Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
Native plants are important for their ecological, economic and aesthetic values. Plants
play an important role in development of crops that resist disease, insects, and drought.
At least 25 percent of prescription drugs contain ingredients derived from plant
compounds, including treatments for cancer, juvenile leukemia, heart disease, and malaria,
and medicines to assist in organ transplants. Plants are also being used to develop
The Service published a complete description of the final rule listing the Ione
buckwheat as endangered and the Ione manzanita as threatened in today's Federal
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for
conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the
continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre
National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges,
thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66
national fish hatcheries and 78 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.
- FWS -
Facts and Q&A About Two Central Sierra Foothills Plants: Ione Manzanita & Ione
Ione manzanita, Erigonium apricum, and Ione buckwheat, Arctostaphylos
myrtifolia, grow in openings within chaparral vegetation on cement-like crusts of
yellow iron oxide. These ancient "Ione soils" are coarse-textured and exhibit
soil properties typical of those produced under tropical climates. The nearest modern-day
relatives to these soils occur in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
The vegetation in the Ione area is distinctive enough to be designated as "Ione
chaparral." The distribution of Ione chaparral is restricted to the vicinity of the
town of Ione in Amador County, California, and a few local areas of adjacent northern
Calaveras County, California.
Ione manzanita is a perennial low-growing shrub with olive-green leaves, berrylike
fruit, and small white to pinkish urn-shaped flowers. The Ione manzanita, which flowers
from January to February, has been listed as threatened.
The Ione manzanita occurs primarily on outcrops of the Ione Formation within an area of
about 35 square miles in Amador County. In addition, a few disjunct populations occur in
Calaveras County. Mining, disease, clearing of vegetation for agriculture and fire
protection, inadequate regulatory mechanisms, habitat fragmentation, residential and
commercial development, changes in fire frequency, and ongoing erosion threaten various
populations of this plant.
Ione buckwheat, inclusive of varieties known as Ione buckwheat and Irish Hill
buckwheat, has been listed as endangered. Both varieties are perennial herbs in the
The Ione buckwheat, Erigonum apricum var. apricum, has oval leaves, grows to 3 to 8
inches in height, and flowers from July to October. This variety is restricted to about 9
occurrences over 10 acres on otherwise barren outcrops within the Ione chaparral. This
plant occurs primarily on private and other non-Federal land; the Bureau of Land
Management manages one population. Threats to survival include mining, clearing of
vegetation for agriculture and for fire protection, inadequate regulatory mechanisms,
habitat fragmentation, increased residential development, and erosion.
Irish Hill buckwheat, Erigonum apricum var. prostratum, has smaller leaves and flowers
at an earlier time than var. apricum. This variety has two known occurrences that are
restricted to otherwise barren outcrops on less than 1 acre in openings of Ione chaparral
on private land. Mining, inadequate regulatory mechanisms, habitat fragmentation, erosion,
and random chance events threaten this plant.
Questions and Answers:
Q. Why have the Ione buckwheat and Ione manzanita been added to the Federal
endangered species list? What are the threats to their survival?
A. The Service uses five factors to determine whether any species is endangered or
threatened. The four factors that apply to these species are the present or threatened
destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species' habitat or range; disease or
predation; inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and other natural or manmade
factors affecting the species' continued existence.
These plants are being listed because there are very few populations of each of the
plants remaining. The primary threats to these plants are mining, clearing of vegetation
for agriculture and fire protection, disease, inadequate regulatory mechanisms, habitat
fragmentation, residential and commercial development, changes in fire frequency, and
continued erosion due to prior off-road vehicle use.
The Ione soils are heavily surface mined and reclamation of the mined areas does not
replace the extracted soils these plants require.
Q. What protections does a listing under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)
offer these species?
A. Listed species are provided a variety of conservation measures under the ESA
including increased public awareness and recognition, development of recovery plans and
strategies, requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions against certain
activities. Collectively, these measures are used to secure the survival and recovery of
Q. What is the difference between a species being listed as threatened or being
listed an endangered? Is there a difference in protection afforded by the ESA?
A. By definition, 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 within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant
portion of its range. Protections afforded by the ESA are the same for both threatened and
endangered species; however, for threatened species, special rules can be developed, which
allow for greater flexibility in managing the species. This special rule process is
authorized under section 4(d) of the ESA.
Q. Does the ESA protect plants differently than it does animals?
A. Yes, in some ways it does. While the ESA prohibits "take" of listed
animals wherever they occur, it prohibits "take" of listed plants only under
certain circumstances. The ESA prohibits destruction of listed plants on Federal land, but
provides little protection from activities on private lands unless the activity is
federally, administered, authorized, or funded or is in violation of any State law.
In those cases where an activity that may affect a listed species is federally
administered, authorized, or funded, the Federal agency must consult with the Fish and
Wildlife Service to ensure that the activity does not jeopardize the species.
The ESA requires all Federal agencies to assist in the recovery of both listed plants
and wildlife, and prohibits them from jeopardizing the continued existence of either
listed species by any action they authorize or fund. The provisions for recovery planning
and partnerships with the State also are the same for plants and animals.
Protection of listed plants under State law differs somewhat from Federal provisions
and landowners with questions should contact their local California Department of Fish and
Q. Why has the Service added the Ione buckwheat to the Federal ESA when it is
already protected by the California ESA?
A. Federal listing brings with it affirmative responsibilities for Federal agencies to
use their authorities to conserve listed species to levels where protection under the
Federal ESA is no longer necessary. In addition, Federal agencies must consult with the
Service on actions they carry out, fund, or authorize, if the activity may affect a listed
species. These responsibilities are not required of Federal agencies under the California
ESA. The Service will work closely with the California Department of Fish and Game to
determine appropriate conservation measures when a proposed project may affect a species
that is both federally listed and State listed.
Q. What activities are not prohibited by the ESA for these two plants?
A. Activities on private land, including but not necessarily limited to, firebreak
construction, grazing and paddocking of livestock, and landscaping, including irrigation,
that do not violate State trespass or other laws, are not prohibited by the ESA.
Q. Will livestock grazing be impacted by the listing of these plants?
A. As noted above, livestock grazing on private land is not prohibited. Sound grazing
management practices help maintain vegetation and control erosion, and are compatible with
the needs of these two plants. Such grazing management provides a multitude of benefits
not only to natural resources, but to livestock grazing interests as well by sustaining
all the resources.
However, if livestock grazing occurs on Federal land or involves Federal funding or
authorization and may affect a listed plant species, then the Federal agency involved must
consult with the Service to ensure that the grazing does not jeopardize the continued
existence of the species.
Q. Will mining be affected by the listing of these plants?
A. If mining occurs on private land, is in compliance with State law, and does not
involve Federal funding or authorization, there should be little effect. If, however, the
mining occurs on Federal land or involves Federal funding or authorization and may affect
a listed plant species, then the Federal agency involved must consult with the Service to
ensure that the mining does not jeopardize the continued existence of the species.
Q. Will pesticide regulations be affected by the listing of these plants?
A. Labeling of pesticides and herbicides is regulated by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and the State of California. With proper application, most impacts to
these species will be avoided.
If application of pesticides and herbicides is determined to adversely affect the
species, the EPA must consult with the Service. In these cases, the Service works with the
EPA and the State to ensure that labeling is adequate to protect the species.
Q. What recovery activities will the Service undertake for these plants?
A. Recovery planning is started soon after the listing of a species. Recovery plans
describe site-specific management actions that contribute to the conservation of the
species. In addition, such plans include objective, measurable criteria, which, when met,
would allow for the delisting of the species. Recovery plans also include estimates of the
time required and the cost to carry out those measures needed to achieve the delisting and
to achieve immediate steps toward that goal.
According to Service policy, the participation of all affected parties will be sought
in order to ensure that the recovery plan is biologically sound and can be implemented by
all of the partners who will coordinate recovery activities for the species. The Service
will use the best scientific information available in planning for the recovery of these
Q. The Service has often established partnerships with other agencies and private
parties to protect declining species. Is there potential for development of partnerships
for these species?
A. Yes. The Service actively encourages partnerships with landowners, involved
agencies, industry and conservation groups, and other interested parties. Many
opportunities exist to assist with the conservation and recovery of these species leading
to their eventual removal from the endangered species list. Parties interested in playing
a role in the recovery of these plants should contact the Service.
Q. Will the Service designate critical habitat for these plants?
A. No. The Service believes that critical habitat designation for these plants is not
prudent at this time. Designation of critical habitat would not provide additional
benefits for these species beyond the protection afforded by the listing.
Write or call:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sacramento Field Office, Endangered Species Division
3310 El Camino Avenue, Suite 130
Sacramento, CA 95821-6340