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Monday, July 4, 2022

California debates listing western Joshua tree as threatened

Sacramento, Calif. ( Associated Press) — California officials are weighing whether to list the iconic western Joshua tree as a threatened species, a designation that would make it harder to remove trees for housing, solar or other development projects. Will give

The desert plant known for its unique appearance, with pointed leaves at the end of its branches, is found in a national park named for its name about 130 miles (209 km) east of Los Angeles and through a stretch of desert known as death. Till then. Valley National Park. There are two types of trees, eastern and western, but only western is up for consideration.

The California Fish and Game Commission held hours of public comment on Wednesday and scheduled the vote for Thursday. If the tree is listed as a threatened species, killing one would require special approval from the state.

Brendan Cummings, conservation director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the state has never listed a species as threatened based on threats from climate change.

The center petitioned for the western Joshua tree to be listed as threatened in 2019, saying warmer temperatures and more intense periods of drought from climate change would make it harder for the species to survive through the end of the century. It also argued that forest fires and development threats harm the ability of trees to live and reproduce.

Cummings said the state’s ongoing drought, which scientists say is part of the worst megadrought in 1,200 years, is potentially harming the trees’ ability to survive.

“We are seeing a single, massive mortality event right now,” he told the commission.

But the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends against listing the species as threatened. The department acknowledged that by 2100 climate change is likely to result in a decline in areas suitable for the growth of Western Joshua trees. But an April report said the tree remained “abundant and widespread,” which poses a risk of extinction.

“The question is not, ‘Will climate change be bad for Joshua Tree?’ The question is, ‘How bad will it get, and how soon?’ And the truth is, we don’t know yet,” said Jeb McKay Bjarke, who submitted the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation to the commission.

It is unknown how many Joshua trees exist in the state, but it could be anywhere from 4.8 million to 9.8 million, he said. He said it was a “close call” for the department not to recommend listing the species as threatened, and that three of the five external peer reviewers who were asked by the department to look at the recommendation, concluded from disagreed.

About 40% of Joshua trees in the state are on private land. Many of the comments focused on the development of housing and solar projects in the area. Many local and state politicians and union activists said listing the species as threatened would make it harder to move forward with necessary projects, including those aimed at fighting climate change by promoting renewable energy.

California has set a requirement that 100% of its electricity be produced from non-carbon sources by 2045.

“We believe that these types of projects are the best tools to combat climate change to protect the future of the western Joshua tree,” said David Doublett, director of land use planning for San Bernardino County, which has a high degree of trees. Concentrators and have several solar power projects.

San Bernardino County, which includes Joshua Tree National Park, recently increased the penalty for illegally removing Joshua trees — a $20,000 fine on the third offense and six months in prison. County Supervisor Don Rowe urged the board not to list the species as threatened, saying that local and county governments are best prepared to respond by imposing restrictions and illegal removal of the tree.

“We are your partner in the conservation and protection of species,” she said.

But several other speakers argued that the state has no time to waste cataloging the species as the state faces warmer temperatures and more extreme droughts and fires, all of which can damage trees. Kelly Harbinson, executive director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust, said while Joshua trees are a “keystone” species of the desert, other species depend on its survival.

“Climate change is a threat that we have yet to deal with and I think we are struggling to figure out the best way forward, but it is happening and it is happening now,” she told the commission. Told.

In 2019, the federal government refused to list the tree as a protected species.

World Nation News Desk
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