Defense

August 31, 2013

Navy saves plants from extinction

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced they will be reclassifying two plants from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The San Clemente Island lotus and the SCI paintbrush are two names that you nearly never heard again, unless you were talking about dinosaurs and dodo birds. The lotus and paintbrush were placed on the endangered list in 1977 due to ravenous goats that were left behind by travelling ranchers on the San Clemente Island – the southernmost of the Channel Islands of California.

Due to the tens of thousands of feral goats that ate and crushed the flora, 61 plants on the island are included in the California Native Plant Society Inventory of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants of California.

In 1934 the U.S. Navy acquired the land and began removing the untamed animals. By the end, the Navy transferred more than 29,000 goats off the island.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that they will be reclassifying the two plants from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Both the lotus and the paintbrush have expanded their range on the island, and ongoing management by the Navy is reducing threats to the plants.

“I’m very proud of the Navy’s commitment to the environment and especially our Naval Base Coronado environmental team,” said Capt. Gary Mayes, commanding officer NBC. “The fact that these two plant species were brought back from the edge of extinction demonstrates that a balance can be found between being good stewards of the environment and operational training.”

Being the sole steward for 15 plants that are only found on SCI, the Navy continues to conduct rare plant surveys, genetic studies, re-vegetation of natives, weed eradication, and erosion control.

“I think it is very interesting that the Navy, whose mission is not to recover species, has done such a remarkable job at recovering these species,” said Bryan Munson, NBC Botany Program Manager.

“The success story on SCI is better than just about any success story out there and the fact that the Navy is doing it is pretty remarkable.”

Even though two plants and a night lizard that is indigenous to SCI are coming off the list at once, Brunson said that getting a plant downlisted is still very rare.

“It might seem somewhat common because we have these three species getting off the endangered list, but I think that is a testament to the Navy’s sound management rather than the general trend for species,” said Brunson.

Brunson added that it takes most species 25 to 100 years to transfer from endangered to threatened depending on a species’ surroundings.

“Although some military training activities, along with erosion, non-native plants and fire still poses a threat to these plants, the imminence, intensity and magnitude of these threats has been reduced and the plants are no longer in danger of extinction,” said Jane Hendron, Public Affairs Division chief, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office.

The downlisting of the lotus and paintbrush was first recommended in five-year reviews prepared by the FWS in 2007. In 2010, using information contained in those five-year reviews, the Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the FWS to downlist the lotus and paintbrush. In the 12-month finding on the petition, published on May 16, 2012, the lotus and paintbrush were proposed for downlisting. The final rule was officially published in the Federal Register on July 26, 2013.

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. They are both considered leaders and trusted partners in fish and wildlife conservation, known for their scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.




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