A proposal to protect California’s famed Joshua trees has spurred a debate that will outlast the Obama administration.
The tree native to Southern California’s Mojave Desert should be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, advocates are telling the Fish and Wildlife Service. But with an initial public comment period closing Nov. 14, skeptics are weighing in, as well.
“Please don’t let these extremists use the drought to put more regulation, on our very over-regulated communities,” Yucca Valley, California, resident Tim Humphreville urged federal officials in a written comment.
Proponents of federal action are equally passionate and, so far, greater in number among those filing public comments.
“May we please have protection from the opportunists who care nothing about the environment and only wish to line their pockets,” wrote Olivia Parker, a resident of the small desert town of Joshua Tree.
Another Joshua Tree resident, Joseph Fairbanks, added that “as the dominant species of its namesake, Joshua Tree National Park, it is imperative that we establish supporting policies and commitments to protect and conserve these iconic trees.”
I implore the Fish and Wildlife Service to act as responsible stewards, not only for myself, but for our posterity, and for our planet.
Joshua Tree, Calif. resident Joseph Fairbanks.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering further protections for the Joshua tree, along with the Lassics lupine found in California’s northern Trinity and Humboldt counties and the drably named Florida scrub lizard and the Lesser Virgin Islands skink.
Responding to petitions filed on behalf of the four species, the agency so far has concluded that there is “substantial scientific or commercial information” warranting federal protection.
The Denver-based WildEarth Guardians, in its September 2015 Joshua tree petition, declared that the “delicate balance allowing Joshua trees to survive is being disrupted by several human caused threats.” Climate change, in particular, is said to lead the pack of threats.
“These iconic trees are an irreplaceable part of the Mojave Desert and the American landscape,” the petition stated. “Because of their nature, efforts to save them must look to the future on a timescale of decades, if not centuries.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s initial review will lead to what are called 12-month findings, which will address whether the protection is warranted.