I just read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a potential listing of the Joshua tree as an endangered species. The western Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, is one of two genetically distinct species that occur in California. It range extends from Joshua Tree national park westward along the northern slope of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains, northward along the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada and eastward to Death Valley.
Approximately 40% of the western tree range is on private land, the eastern range is centered in the Mojave National Preserve and eastward into Nevada.
After decades of climate change, development, drought and wildfires, the species is facing a rapidly increased the risk of extinction. State Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission will decide in June whether to accept the department’s recommendation to declare the tree an endangered.
As usual, there are two sides to the issue. Conservationists see this as a triumph of state environmental law while critics claim it as a misguided overreach because Joshua trees are already protected under many city and county ordinances and within the 800,000 acre national park.
Environmentalists argue existing state and local ordinances are largely inadequate at protecting species habitat loss, the endangered species listing will finally provide a statewide protection for the species, including requiring wildlife managers devise a recovery plant for the species, which could limit development in SoCal real estate.
The Joshua tree exists in high desert communities such as Yucca Valley or Hesperia, communities with lower average median household incomes. They are concerned the listing would impose additional burdens to real estate development, making it tougher to improve their property or curtail new development in their communities.
However, researchers warn time is running out. The tree’s range is contracting at lower elevations, its reproduction has come to a halt. Trees are failing to reproduce at lower, hotter elevations. They could become extinct in California by the end of the century!
This would be a terrible outcome for a truly incredible species. This remarkable species deserves protection. I believe this tree, in its own way is as majestic in its high desert setting as the coast redwood. These are species distinct to our California heritage. The Joshua tree deserves protection for our future generations to enjoy, marvel and be uplifted by this unique species.
Download a pdf of the article here: Los Angeles Times – eNewspaper