Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office
3310 El Camino Avenue, Suite 130
Sacramento CA 95821-6340

Contact: Patricia Foulk - 916/979-2710

May 26, 1999


SACRAMENTO, California–Two 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 these plants."

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 said.

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 natural pesticides.

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 Register.

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 Buckwheat

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 buckwheat family.

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 the species.

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 Game office.

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 species.

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.


More questions?

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

(916) 979-2710