Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 4, 2020

California Moves To Protect Joshua Trees

National Parks Conservation Association News Release

The California Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved temporary California Endangered Species Act (CESA) protections today for western Joshua trees.

Desert conservation took a critical step forward today, as the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4-0 to grant temporary California Endangered Species Act (CESA) protections for western Joshua trees.

Today’s vote advances the western Joshua tree to candidate status in the listing process under CESA. State officials now have a year to study the western Joshua tree’s outlook for survival and make a final decision whether to grant permanent Threatened status to the species. If California does grant protected status to the western Joshua tree in 2021, it will be the first use of CESA to protect a species mainly threatened by climate change.

The Commission also voted (3-1) to approve an emergency take permit for 15 large solar facilities in the California desert to allow them to kill Joshua trees during construction. The take permits approved by the Commission today were largely seen as necessary to blunt energy industry opposition to the listing.

Statement by Chris Clarke, California Desert Associate Director for the National Parks Conservation Association

“Today’s vote underscores California’s longstanding commitment to defending California desert ecosystems and critical species including the Joshua tree. Our work isn’t over, as we must ensure state agencies complete the listing process next year and grant full threatened species protections for the western Joshua tree.

“While we believe there are far better ways to build renewable projects that don’t involve mowing down Joshua tree forests, we understand the reasoning behind the take permit granted and are heartened that the state of California is on guard against that practice for future projects.”

“While the recent Dome Fire in Mojave National Preserve burnt a different species of Joshua tree, it is a stark reminder of the importance of protecting fragile California desert species and ecosystems in the face of the climate crisis. If we can permanently lose 1.3 million trees on fully protected land in less than a week, it’s clear we have to do everything possible to protect every acre of Joshua tree forest that still remains standing.


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