U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Pacific Region
News Release
May 17, 2001
  Department of the Interior
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
2493 Portola Road, Suite B
Ventura, California 93003
Phone: 805/644-1766
Fax: 805/644-3958

Contact: Lois Grunwald, Ventura, California -805/644-1766




The Ventura marsh milk-vetch, a plant once thought to be extinct, is being listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. Until its rediscovery by a Service biologist in 1997, the species had not been seen since a single plant was collected in 1967.
The Ventura milk-vetch (Astragalus pycnostachyus var.lanosissimus) is a perennial member of the pea family with silvery-haired leaves and clusters of yellowish or cream-colored flowers. The only known population of the plant is located on less than one acre of privately owned beach dune in Ventura County that has historically been used for oil field waste disposal. When the species was rediscovered in 1997, 374 plants were counted at the site. In 1998, the population declined to fewer than 200 plants and has continued downward since.
"It was very exciting to find this population of a plant that was thought to be extinct," said Michael J. Spear, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California/Nevada Operations manager. "But it is clear that the situation is precarious. We believe it clearly warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act." Imminent threats to the plants are the clean-up of contaminated soil and a proposed residential development at the site. Because of its small population, the Ventura marsh milk-vetch is also vulnerable to extinction by natural events, competition from nonnative plant and animal species, and from disease or prolonged drought.
The milk-vetch's historic range included coastal Ventura, Los Angeles, and possibly Orange counties. It was once found in the Ballona wetlands and in Santa Monica, but it has not been found at these locations for nearly a century.
The California Department of Fish and Game -- which listed the Ventura marsh milk-vetch as endangered in April 2000 -- is working with the Service to collect seed from the remaining plants to establish new populations. This method of conserving native plants is experimental and it is not known how successful it will be at establishing a new population.
The Service proposed to list the Ventura marsh milk-vetch as an endangered species on May 25, 1999. A complete description of the Service's final rule to list this species as endangered will be published in the Federal Register.

The Service made this final listing decision consistent with the terms of the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the Service by the Center for Biological Diversity.
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 are necessary for private and other landowners only when federal funding or permits are required for activities that may affect listed species.
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 medicine to treat cancer, heart disease, juvenile leukemia, and malaria, as well that used to assist organ transplants. Plants are also used to develop natural pesticides.
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 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices 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.

Ventura Marsh milk-vetch (Astragalus pycnostachyus var.lanosissimus)


NOTE: This news release and others can be viewed on either the Services Pacific Regional home page on the internet at http://pacific.fws.gov or the national home page at http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases.html

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