FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Final Franciscan Manzanita Critical Habitat Announced,
Creates First Ever Habitat Recovery Opportunities in San Francisco County

Designation sets the stage for a collaborative recovery planning process
to Bring San Francisco’s “Miracle Manzanita” Back from the Brink of Extinction

SAN FRANCISCO— In a major advancement in one of San Francisco’s most important biological discoveries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce tomorrow the final critical habitat designation for the Franciscan Manzanita. The designation includes approximately 200 acres of land that provide the best, and possibly last opportunity to bring San Francisco’s namesake manzanita back from the brink of extinction.

The last wild Franciscan Manzanita—but not for long!

FranManz-CriticalHabitat-GE_medium

Map © Bay Nature Magazine.


“Species with critical habitat designations are twice as likely to recover as those without,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “This announcement will help us all bring this incredible story to a happy ending: a fully recovered species no longer needs protection under the Endangered Species Act, just as we’ve done with our Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, and Steller Sea Lion populations.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the protection of a species’ “critical habitat” is closely tied to the ultimate recovery of the species. Because much of the Franciscan Manzanita’s historic habitats have been destroyed by unsustainable development, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical habitat designation emphasizes areas that are suitable for reintroduction or the establishment of new populations that have suitable habitat characteristics.

The final critical habitat designation includes five areas within the Presidio Trust (Fort Point, Fort Point Rock, World War II Memorial, Immigrant Point, & Inspiration Point) and six areas within San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and other lands (Corona Heights, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Diamond Heights, McLaren Park, & Bayview Park).  

In the largest change from the critical habitat proposal released earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service removed all areas of Bernal Heights Park from the critical habitat designation. San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department had allowed the park to become “highly degraded” by unsustainably high use, making it impossible for conservation efforts to succeed at that park.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also excluded areas that do not contain habitat for the species, such as roads, gun batteries and 1.4 acres of forest in the Presidio; heavily degraded off-leash dog play areas at Corona Heights; and areas in Diamond Heights, Bayview and McLaren Parks that do not have needed habitat conditions for the Franciscan Manzanita.

Today’s announcement also addressed some myths about critical habitat. It stated that critical habitat designations only affect federal activities: private landowners therefore will have no additional regulatory constraints unless they attempt to conduct federal projects on their lands. It also reaffirmed the scientific basis for designating portions of Mount Davidson as critical habitat, finding that appropriate geologic and soil conditions exist there for the species to thrive.

“Now is our opportunity to show the world that great cities can thrive without destroying indigenous plants and animals,” said Plater. “By collaborating with educational institutions, fish and wildlife agencies, and conservation groups, San Francisco can demonstrate that it is truly committed to sustainability for all.”

Background

In 2009 Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp rediscovered the Franciscan manzanita, presumed extinct in the wild for over 60 years, while exiting the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. This subtly charming flowering shrub was only known from San Francisco, but it was tragically lost despite heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive. In a last act of desperation, in 1947 botanists stood in front of earth-moving equipment to wrest the last known wild plants from a construction site. The plants were sent to a botanical garden, and no one found the plant in the wild again: until Dr. Gluesenkamp’s miraculous discovery.

The individual plant was subsequently moved to a more secure location in the Presidio to avoid disturbance from the ongoing construction of the Doyle Drive project. While the individual plant was saved from immediate threat, no formal protection was provided to ensure the entire species recovered.

The Wild Equity Institute therefore petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed, protecting the plant as endangered and proposing to protect its critical habitats in 2012. The full story of the plant’s rediscovery and path toward recovery is available here.

The Endangered Species Act requires creation of a binding recovery plan for the species; it prioritizes federal funding for the species’ recovery efforts; and it ensures that the species’ critical habitats, both those currently occupied and those that are needed for reintroduction, are protected. Together, these protections have made the statute the most successful conservation law in the world.

For more information about the Franciscan Manzanita, please visit our website at wildequity.org.



The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.


http://wildequity.org/

###

 

Last year Wild Equity issued a press release about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to list the Franciscan Manzanita, Arctostaphylos franciscana, as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and to designate critical Manzanita habitat in the Bay Area.

The public comment period on this proposal has been extended through July 29, 2013. This is your opportunity to stand up for the Manzanita! We need you to send a message to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to urge them to formalize the protection of this imperiled species and its critical habitat.

We encourage you to personalize the message below. Please cut and paste and submit your comment via the form found at http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FWS-R8-ES-2012-0067-0079

I am writing to support the designation of critical habitat for the endangered Franciscan manzanita. Restoring this plant to a fully-functioning species provides us with an incredible conservation opportunity. Arguments that this will negatively impact recreational opportunities in San Francisco are unreasonable and should not overshadow the importance of preserving native plants. In fact, protecting land to allow the Franciscan manzanita to grow naturally provides new recreation opportunities for the public to steward the lands where the species are found. It will also provide new recreation resources by restoring landscapes and vistas that have been taken away from the public domain because of mismanagement or poor vegetation choices. There are other benefits as well, including providing more restoration jobs and opportunities for local economies in San Francisco. I strongly urge you to designate suitable habitat areas for the endangered Franciscan manzanita as critical habitat.

Please let us know that you submitted a comment by posting in the section below.

This weekend was one of the busiest in San Francisco history. In addition to all the festivities throughout the city, the Franciscan Manzanita was officially listed under the Endangered Species Act along with a proposal for several acres of critical habitat and, of course, we threw one big party to celebrate.


© David Burban

Thank you to all who came out on Friday to share the love for the Manzanita, support the work of Wild Equity Institute, and celebrate this historical moment in the environmental movement!

Many familiar friends and new faces joined us to party, wish a hopeful recovery for the Franciscan Manzanita, and give a big “Thank You” to the lead organizations that helped make it happen.

“The Franciscana,” our signature elixir, good food, music, dancing and great company all made for one amazing Manzanita celebration! We listened to great tunes from DJ Justice, who kept the dance party going all night long. We learned a new dance move, “the Manzanita,” from volunteer Leah Thompson, who accompanied it with a video (below), made exclusively for the celebration by Kirra Swenerton.


Leah Thompson, our dance performer for the night. ©David Burban


DJ Justice picking out the hot jams! ©David Burban

We had the pleasure of listening to a live performance by Kristin Plater, a very talented musician from New York. She also led us in singing “Happy Birthday” to the Franciscan Manzanita before we cut the birthday cake!


Kristin Plater singing for us and the Manzanita. ©David Burban

Many people had the lucky opportunity to meet, and take pictures with a very special guest, a close relative of the Franciscan Manzanita, the Mt. Tam Manzanita (Arctostaphylos hookeri)! We also had two guest speakers, Brett Hall, State Board President from The California Native Plant Society and Mike Vasey, Biology Professor from San Francisco State University. Videos to come real soon!


photos ©David Burban

Of course, we could not have rocked this celebration without the help of our wonderful volunteers, you know who you are. So thank you to everyone who provided a hand in the party planning! Visit our Facebook page for more pictures of the celebration.


photos ©David Burban

We have many more events coming up real soon! Be sure to RSVP for our Big Year Bike Ride next week, Saturday, October 20th from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. Sign-up for a Wild Equity account, visit our calendar, RSVP and join the Wild Equity fun!

After the amazing discovery of the Franciscan manzanita in the Presidio, the Wild Equity Institute filed a petition under the Endangered Species Act to ensure that the long-term recovery planning process for the species was conducted using the best recovery tools available.

As part of the short-term plans to protect the individual plant, biologists from several agencies determined the plant should be moved to a more secure site within the Presidio. This video documents some of the work done on the project.

Now that the move is complete, long-term recovery planning for the species—in addition to the work to save this individual plant—will now move forward.

In preparation of tonight’s celebration for the Franciscan Manzanita, the Wild Equity Institute has compiled the remarkable story of this little plant’s most recent history. It is a genuine Endangered Species Act success story, one that we hope will inspire us all. And there is no better day to share this story than today, the day the plant formally receives federal Endangered Species Act protection nearly 70 years after it was mistakenly deemed extinct in the wild.

The Process.

Rare plants do not receive automatic protection simply because they are on federal lands. And the Franciscan manzanita was worse than rare—it was presumed extinct in the wild, and extinct species receive no protection at all.

So when the Franciscan manzanita was rediscovered in the the Presidio Parkway’s construction footprint, CalTrans could have destroyed it without any legal consequence, particularly since the project had already been approved through CEQA and NEPA.

It was only through a coordinated effort of multiple parties that this outcome was avoided. One of the parties that played a role in this was the Wild Equity Institute, which, along with the California Native Plant Society and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed an emergency administrative petition to list the plant as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

A petition is not a lawsuit—it is a formal, legal request to protect the species, combined with the best available science that demonstrates how the species meets the criteria for listing under law. The Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed this petition and determined that the petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing this species may be warranted: a decision it made unilaterally and without litigation.

Shortly thereafter, the Service wrote a rule to protect the plant, but the rule became buried in the federal rulemaking process, somewhere between the Service’s regional office in Sacramento and the Federal Register’s publishing office in DC. When that happened, Wild Equity worked with San Francisco’s local and federal politicians to get the process moving again.

While a lawsuit ultimately was filed as a part of this work, it was not fully briefed, because the suit caught the attention of agency insiders with the power to take the written rule and send it to the Federal Register for printing. That simple act was all the species needed for it to finally receive full protection under law. Once that happened the case was voluntarily dismissed.

The Priority.

It is hard to imagine a more pressing conservation priority than the last known wild plant of an entire species that is ‘in the way’ of a multi-billion dollar construction project connecting San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge. Nonetheless, some critics—typically unsophisticated or uninformed, but occasionally spiteful—have suggested that the plant is undeserving of protection. the most spiteful criticisms suggest that Franciscan Manzanita protection prevents some other deserving conservation priority from being achieved.

Unlike these commentators, the Fish and Wildlife Service has always considered the Franciscan manzanita to be a top-tier conservation concern: in 1980 the Service ranked it a Category 1 conservation concern, losing out on formal protection only because it was thought extinct in the wild.

But even if it were true that other species deserve higher priority than the Franciscan Manzanita, the assertion that protecting the Manzanita negatively affected the Service’s other conservation priorities is not true. The Service was able to use this species’ remarkable story to secure specific funding to process the listing rule. No one has ever suggested that this listing rule took funding away from the protection of any other species in need.

Other uninformed criticisms suggest that recovery planning will never occur for this species, because no private entity or local government will spend the funds to do it. But the Federal government creates recovery plans for listed species, not local governments or private entities: therefore, the argument that entities like San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program will not aid recovery because it is inept or underfunded is simply non sequitur.

Moreover, when Dr. Peter Baye drafted the official federal recovery plan for Coastal Plants of the Northern San Francisco Peninsula about a decade ago, he included recovery recommendations for the Franciscan manzanita, one of the many acts of prescience in his remarkable career. Much of the investment needed for recovery planning has thus already been done.

The Plant.

Perhaps the most uninformed—and surprisingly heartless—criticism is that the Franciscan Manzanita is a “weak” species, unable to survive in the limited habitats where it was found. In fact, the recovery plan states that the species is “easily cultivated,” “thrives on neglect after established on a wide range of substrates,” has “good soil adaptability,” and “sets viable seed that can be propagated,” all of which indicates the species is perfectly capable of thriving if left to its own devices. The historic record also indicates that franciscana was a robust species: until it was deliberately destroyed by urban development. It exists today because of the heroic acts by some of California’s greatest botanists who saved specimens from imminent destruction: and because developers just happened to miss a spot.

The Promise.

The Endangered Species Act listing will give botanists the best tools ever adopted by any nation to recover Arctostaphylos franciscana, and with so many Arctostaphylos experts in the Bay Area, we are confident it will recover and one day be delisted like the Brown Pelican, the Bald Eagle, and dozens of other Endangered Species Act success stories.

Responding to a petition filed by the Wild Equity Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has secured funding to start the Endangered Species Act protection process for the Franciscan manzanita in 2010.

A single Franciscan manzanita plant was rediscovered in the wild by Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp this winter. The species was last seen in the wild nearly seventy years ago. The individual plant has been moved to a more secure home in the Presidio of San Francisco, and with the help of the Endangered Species Act the recovery efforts for the entire species can begin in earnest. Learn more here.

Join Wild Equity to celebrate the official listing of the Franciscan Manzanita!

Friday, the 5th of October
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

The Eric Quezada Center for Culture & Politics
518 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

Join us for food, specialty cocktails and music by DJ Justice!

Please R.S.V.P.

Join us at The Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics to celebrate this success. We’ll be drinking a new signature elixir called the “Franciscana” and dancing the “Manzanita”—a new dance move that will surely sweep the nation once the YouTube videos of the night hit the interwebs! There will be food and music, and another too rare event: an opportunity to celebrate with dozens of great people like you, people working to build healthy and sustainable global community for all!

$5 donation requested at the door.

Hope to see you all there!

On October 5th, the Franciscan Manzanita will officially get federal protection under the Endangered Species Act! We’re hosting a party that day to celebrate this giant leap forward for plantkind, and you can help us make this the greatest manzanita party ever by:

· Inviting our members and supporters to the celebration
· Setting-up and tearing-down on Oct. 5
· Delivering food and party favors to the venue
· Welcoming people at the door
· Distributing flyers
· Serving food and drinks
· DJ’ing
· Photography and videography on Oct. 5
· And more!

Contact Roxanne at rramirez@wildequity.org or (415) 347-6518 if you want to help us party!


Cheers to the protection of the Franciscan Manzanita!


Building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth

September 4, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 669-7357
Daniel Gluesenkamp, California Native Plant Society, (415) 939-6681

San Francisco’s Rediscovered Franciscan Manzanita
Gains Final “Endangered” Status, Proposed Critical Habitat

Final Rule to Protect San Francisco’s Miracle Manzanita Released Tomorrow; Includes First Ever Proposal to Protect San Francisco Lands at Critical Habitat

SAN FRANCISCO— In a major advancement in one of San Francisco’s most important biological discoveries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce tomorrow its decision to list the Franciscan Manzanita, Arctostaphylos franciscana, as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.  The final listing rule will become effective October 5, 2012.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also propose to designate over 300 acres of critical habitat for the species in 11 different areas across Presidio Trust, San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, and other lands; it will accept public comments on the critical habitat proposal through November 5, 2012.



The last wild Franciscan Manzanita—but not for long!

“The Endangered Species Act gives us the best tools available to protect and recover the rediscovered Franciscan Manzanita,’ said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Coupled with the Bay Area’s best minds in the manzanita business, the day will come when this species is once again a functioning part of our biological community.”

“We’re pleased this rare plant is getting the protection the species so desperately needs to survive and recover,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hopefully this signals that Fish and Wildlife Service has turned a corner on protecting endangered species.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the protection of a species’ “critical habitat” is closely tied to the ultimate recovery of the species.  Species with their critical habitat protected are generally twice as likely to recover than those without critical habitats protected.  Because all of the Franciscan Manzanita’s historic habitats have been destroyed by unsustainable development, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical habitat proposal emphasizes areas which are suitable for reintroduction or the establishment of new populations that have suitable habitat characteristics.

Areas proposed for critical habitat by the Fish and Wildlife Service include five areas within the Presidio Trust (Fort Point, Fort Point Rock, World War II Memorial, Immigrant Point, & Inspiration Point) and six areas within San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and other lands (Corona Heights, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Diamond Heights, Bernal Heights, Bayview Park).  

The proposal, if implemented and supplemented by areas that are still being evaluated for designation as critical habitat, will bolster efforts to create bioregional protected areas in San Francisco that provide appropriate recreation opportunities for all while preserving the last remnants of San Francisco’s biological heritage.


Franciscan Manzanita Critical Habitat Map

The Fish and Wildlife Service will take comments on its critical habitat proposal for 60 days. To submit comments, go to the regulations.gov rulemaking portal, and enter FWS–R8–ES–2012–0067 in the keyword search box.

Background

In 2009 Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp rediscovered the Franciscan manzanita, presumed extinct in the wild for over 60 years, while exiting the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. This subtly charming flowering shrub was only known from San Francisco, but it was tragically lost despite heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive. In a last act of desperation, in 1947 botanists stood in front of earth-moving equipment to wrest the last known wild plants from a construction site. The plants were sent to a botanical garden, and no one found the plant in the wild again: until Dr. Gluesenkamp’s miraculous discovery.

The individual plant was subsequently moved to a more secure location in the Presidio to avoid disturbance from the ongoing construction of the Doyle Drive project. While the individual plant was saved from immediate threat, no formal protection was provided to ensure the entire species recovered. The proposed rule will provide formal Endangered Species Act protection for the plant: it requires creation of a binding recovery plan for the species; it prioritizes federal funding for the species’ recovery efforts; and if found prudent, it ensures that the species’ critical habitats, both those currently occupied and those that are needed for reintroduction, are protected.

The announcement follows a formal listing petition submitted by the Wild Equity Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the California Native Plant Society, and subsequent litigation by the Wild Equity Institute when the proposal was delayed. The proposed rule was finally released on the day that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s responsive briefs were due in the litigation; and now the final rule has been announced, giving formal protection to this imperiled species.

For more information about the Franciscan Manzanita, please visit our website at wildequity.org.



The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.


http://wildequity.org/



###


September 7, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 669-7357

San Francisco’s Rediscovered Franciscan Manzanita
Proposed for Formal Endangered Species Status

Proposed Rule to Protect San Francisco’s Miracle Manzanita to be Released Tomorrow

SAN FRANCISCO— In a major advancement in one of San Francisco’s most important biological discoveries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose to list the Franciscan manzanita, Arctostaphylos franciscana, as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in the Federal Register tomorrow. It is the first species to be listed by the Fish and Wildlife Service in response to a citizen petition under the Obama Administration.


The last wild Franciscan manzanita—but not for long!

“The Endangered Species Act gives us the best tools available to protect and recover the rediscovered Franciscan manzanita,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “Coupled with the Bay Area’s best minds in the manzanita business, the day will come when this species is once again a functioning part of our biological community.”

“We’re pleased this rare plant is getting the protection the species so desperately needs to survive and recover,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hopefully this signals that Fish and Wildlife Service has turned a corner on protecting endangered species.”

“We welcome this decision by the US Fish & Wildlife Service,” said Greg Suba of the California Native Plant Society. “The long-term protection of this species is now more likely as it continues its extraordinary conservation success story.”

In 2009 Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp rediscovered the Franciscan manzanita, presumed extinct in the wild for over 60 years, while exiting the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. This subtly charming flowering shrub was only known from San Francisco, but it was tragically lost despite heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive. In a last act of desperation, in 1947 botanists stood in front of earth-moving equipment to wrest the last known wild plants from a construction site. The plants were sent to a botanical garden, and no one found the plant in the wild again: until Dr. Gluesenkamp’s miraculous discovery.

The individual plant was subsequently moved to a more secure location in the Presidio to avoid disturbance from the ongoing construction of the Doyle Drive project. While the individual plant was saved from immediate threat, no formal protection was provided to ensure the entire species recovered. The proposed rule will provide formal Endangered Species Act protection for the plant: it requires creation of a binding recovery plan for the species; it prioritizes federal funding for the species’ recovery efforts; and if found prudent, it ensures that the species’ critical habitats, both those currently occupied and those that are needed for reintroduction, are protected.

Tomorrow’s announcement follows a formal listing petition submitted by the Wild Equity Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the California Native Plant Society, and subsequent litigation by the Wild Equity Institute when the proposal was delayed. The proposed rule was finally released on the day that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s responsive briefs were due in the litigation.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will take comments on the proposal, including comments on the areas that should be designated as critical habitat for the species, for the next 60 days. A public hearing may also be held, if requested. To submit comments, go to the regulations.gov rulemaking portal, and enter FWS–R8–ES–2010–0049 in the keyword search box.

For more information about the Franciscan Manzanita, please visit our website at wildequity.org.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

The Franciscan Manzanita

Last week San Francisco Chronicle columnists Matier & Ross claimed that the City and County of San Francisco was stuck with a $200,000 bill to move the rediscovered Franciscan Manzanita from the path of the Doyle Drive construction project. The article caused a firestorm: it was the most viewed item on the Chronicle’s website last week, and now Sean Hannity of Fox News is calling around to do a hit-piece on the plant.

Trouble is, Matier & Ross’ accusation is false. According to Doyle Drive Project Spokesperson Molly Graham, “this money isn’t coming from the City of San Francisco’s coffers.”  In fact, the transplant was funded by a pre-existing environmental mitigation budget sponsored by all Bay Area counties.  Although the discovery of the Manzanita wasn’t anticipated, not one new taxpayer dollar was needed to fund the move.  Moreover, the total proposed to be spent on this species recovery action is less than .01% of the entire budget for the Doyle Drive project.

CalTrans Video of the Manzanita Move

Yet the Chronicle still hasn’t published a retraction.  Please e-mail the Chronicle today and demand that they publish one, and also allow Manzanita advocates to set the record straight on the Chronicle’s op-ed pages.

June 14, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989

Delay, Duplicity
Leads to Lawsuit
to Protect San Francisco’s Miracle Manzanita

SAN FRANCISCO — The Wild Equity Institute today filed a lawsuit against Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the recently rediscovered Franciscan manzanita under the Endangered Species Act.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to use our most powerful recovery tool, the Endangered Species Act, to protect and restore the Franciscan manzanita,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “When asked why, the Service has not been forthright. The Service has had over 60 years to get its story straight, and the Franciscan manzanita simply cannot afford further delay.”


The last wild Franciscan manzanita.

The Franciscan manzanita was rediscovered in the Presidio in 2009, over 60 years after it was declared extinct in the wild. However, because the plant was presumed extinct it was never given legal protection: currently no regulatory mechanisms exist to protect the species or encourage its recovery.

To remedy this problem the Wild Equity Institute filed a formal legal petition to list the Franciscan manzanita as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in December 2009, shortly after the species was rediscovered. The Endangered Species Act required the federal government to respond to the petition no later than December 2010—but to date the Service has not made a decision on the petition.

Since that time the Wild Equity Institute has made repeated inquires to the Fish and Wildlife Service and congressional and senate offices to determine why the Franciscan manzanita remains unprotected. In response, the Fish and Wildlife Service explained by letter dated March 24, 2011 that it “anticipated submitting our 12-month finding for this species to the Federal Register by late summer 2011.”

Yet on May 10, 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service filed a proposed settlement agreement in a separate Endangered Species Act lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The settlement agreement included a document called “Listing and Critical Habitat Work Plan for FY 2011 and 2012.” Although dozens of findings are proposed in the work plan for this and next fiscal year covering over a hundred species, completing the Franciscan manzanita’s legally required 12-month finding is not on the Secretary’s work plan for either fiscal year.

“The rediscovery of the Franciscan manzanita is a great conservation success story, and it deserves the full attention of the agency charged with bringing species back from the brink of extinction,” said Plater. “This lawsuit will ensure that the Franciscan manzanita gets the protection it richly deserves.”

Background

The Franciscan manzanita is native to San Francisco. It was once found at the former Laurel Hill Cemetery, the former Masonic Cemetery (near Lone Mountain), and Mount Davidson. It is not known to have occurred anywhere else on Earth.

The Franciscan manzanita’s tragic history is filled with heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive. In 1906, the specimens first used to identify the species were rescued from the California Academy of Sciences as fires driven by the San Francisco earthquake ravaged the Academy’s collections. In 1947 a famous botanist stood in front of earth-moving equipment to wrest the last known wild plants from a construction site. These plants were sent to a botanical garden, and for the next 60 years no one saw the plant in the wild.

But then in 2009 a botanist driving newly-cleared areas in the Doyle Drive construction project made an unusual observation: he saw a manzanita on the side of the road, in the middle of an area where construction was about to begin. He relayed his findings to National Park Service and Presidio Trust staff, who then raced to the scene and discovered that the plant was a Franciscan manzanita: the first to be seen in the wild since 1947.

A collaborative effort was then launched to move the plant to a more secure area in the Presidio. But because the plant was considered extinct in the wild, it was never granted full Endangered Species Act status, and the individual plant, which comprises the entire known wild population of the species, could be harmed without consequence under federal endangered species laws.

The Endangered Species Act, the world’s most comprehensive and effective law promoting the protection and recovery of threatened wildlife and plants, must now—finally—be invoked to protect the San Francisco manzanita. Once protected, the plant will have its critical habitat areas protected from development; a comprehensive recovery plan for the species will be created and funded; and it will be illegal for anyone to cause harm to individual plants.

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

http://wildequity.org/

###

Today the Wild Equity Institute filed a formal 60-day notice of intent to sue the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to provide timely protection to the Franciscan Manzanita, a highly imperiled plant found only in the Presidio in San Francisco.


The Last Wild Franciscan Manzanita

The Franciscan Manzanita made national headlines in December 2009 when Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp rediscovered the plant near Doyle Drive in the Presidio, more than 70 years after the species was declared extinct in the wild. Unfortunately, at the time Dr. Gluesenkamp made his discovery the plant was threatened by a massive, federally-funded road construction project. But a collaborative effort to move the plant into a more secure location was undertaken, saving the individual plant and giving manzanita experts a more stable area to begin species-wide recovery efforts.

To kick-start those species-wide recovery efforts, on December 14, 2009, the Wild Equity Institute submitted a formal administrative petition to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to provide the species with formal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Endangered Species Act protection is essential to the recovery of the Franciscan Manzanita because it requires a recovery plan to be created and prioritizes federal funding for recovery actions.

Although the Fish and Wildlife Service secured funding to process the petition in 2010 and subsequently found that the Wild Equity Institute’s petition presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the species may be warranted, it still has not published a proposed rule to protect the Franciscan Manzanita. Under the mandatory deadlines specified in the Endangered Species Act, the finding was due no later than December 14, 2010.

Because the battle against extinction is ultimately a race against time, delays in processing the petition puts the species at risk. Moreover, without Endangered Species Act protection, there is no legal protection for the last plant in the wild; no binding recovery plan can be created; and no federal recovery funding for the endangered plant can be provided.

The Wild Equity Institute hopes that the Fish and Wildlife Service will get this Franciscan Manzanita protected as quickly as possible without having to resort to litigation. But if the agency doesn’t respond rapidly, we will be there to ensure the species gets the protection it deserves and desperately needs.

Reviewing the 50 or so comments submitted to protect the Franciscan manzanita has been a heartwarming exercise: it gives us hope for a healthy and sustainable global community for people and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.


The Franciscan Manzanita

Of course, there’s always this guy:

“$175,000 to move a plant? Are you serious? I think that money is better spent on the TAX PAYERS rather than a PLANT which was quite fine where it already was! Come on, really?? Who comes up with these kind of decisions? Give us better roads, feed the homeless, or at least do SOMETHING productive with OUR money.”

Yes, that’s an actual quote from the public record.

If you haven’t yet, make sure you get your comments in supporting Endangered Species Act protections for the Franciscan manzanita. Comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov. In the box that reads “Enter Keyword or ID”, commenters must enter the docket number for the Franciscan manzanita finding [FWS-R8-ES-2010-0049], check the box that reads “Open for Comment/Submission”, and then click the Search button. An icon that reads “Submit a Comment” will be returned: click it and enter your comments on the site. The deadline is only a month away.

The protection proposal was prompted by the Wild Equity Institute’s formal administrative petition to protect the species shortly after it was rediscovered in the wild by Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp inside the Presidio Trust in San Francisco, nearly 70 years after it was deemed extinct in the wild. The Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society co-petitioned for the protections.

If you like our work please consider supporting us with a donation today. We’ll make sure that the funds go towards providing scientifically-sound comments on the listing proposal and protecting the species for future generations to enjoy.

Today is the last day to comment on the proposal to list the Franciscan Manzanita, Arctostaphylos franciscana, under the Endangered Species Act. You can support this important conservation step by clicking here and letting the Fish and Wildlife Service know why you support full federal Endangered Species Act protection for San Francisco’s miracle manzanita.

Don’t know what to say? That’s OK: just write from your heart and let the Fish and Wildlife Service know that you want the individual plant protected and the entire species restored using the best conservation law on the planet: the Endangered Species Act.

If you are looking for something more to say, feel free to review the Wild Equity Institute’s comments. We’ve focused on the importance of protecting unoccupied areas for the species, areas that have the characteristics needed to serve as important reintroduction areas as part of a long-term recovery process for the species.

You can find out more about the amazing rediscovery of the Franciscan manzanita and the bold recovery actions being taken for the species at the Wild Equity Institute’s Franciscan Manzanita website.

August 9, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: BRENT PLATER, WILD EQUITY INSTITUTE, 415-572-6989

Petition to Protect San Francisco’s “Miracle Manzanita”
Prompts Feds to Begin Protection Process

SAN FRANCISCO— The Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it has started the formal legal process to protect the Franciscan manzanita under the federal Endangered Species Act, widely considered to be our most powerful and effective tool for protecting the imperiled plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.

“This is a great opportunity for the Bay Area to close one of our coldest conservation cases,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “With the best tools on the planet and some of the most innovative people in the country, I’m confident we’ll keep the Franciscan manzanita around for future generations to enjoy.”


The Franciscan Manzanita

The announcement was prompted by the Wild Equity Institute’s formal administrative petition to protect the species shortly after it was rediscovered in the wild by Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp inside the Presidio Trust in San Francisco, nearly 70 years after it was deemed extinct in the wild.

Because extinct species are not protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Franciscan manzanita had no formal protection when it was found. The Endangered Species Act protection petition was submitted on an emergency basis to close this loophole and give biologists the tools they need to bring the species back from extinction. The Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society co-petitioned for the protections.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding means that a 60-day public comment period will commence so individuals can provide thoughts, testimony, and evidence supporting the Endangered Species Act finding. Comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov. In the box that reads “Enter Keyword or ID”, commenters must enter the docket number for the Franciscan manzanita finding [FWS-R8-ES-2010-0049], check the box that reads “Open for Comment/Submission”, and then click the Search button. An icon that reads “Submit a Comment” will be returned: click it and enter your comments on the site.

The rediscovery of the Franciscan manzanita prompted a cost-effective and collaborative rescue and relocation effort for the last surviving wild plant. The Endangered Species Act protection will ensure that biologists can now work on the restoration and recovery of the entire species. “The Endangered Species Act is the world’s most effective and comprehensive conservation law. With its flexible and powerful toolkit we can ensure that the Franciscan manzanita recovers once and for all,” said Plater.

The Franciscan manzanita is a subtly charming flowering shrub found nowhere else on Earth. Its tragic history is filled with heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive. In 1906, the specimens first used to identify the species were rescued from the California Academy of Sciences as fires driven by the San Francisco earthquake ravaged the Academy’s collections. In 1947 a famous botanist stood in front of earth-moving equipment to wrest the last known wild plants from a construction site. The plants were sent to a botanical garden, and no one found the plant in the wild again until Dr. Gluesenkamp’s sighting in the Fall of 2009.


San Francisco Manzanita at the Former Laurel Hill Cemetery, 1937

For photos, interviews with manzanita scientists, or more information, call 415-572-6989.
Click here to view the petition.
Click here to read an advance copy of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding.
Click here to read the finding as published in the Federal Register.

###

December 14, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: BRENT PLATER, WILD EQUITY INSTITUTE, 415-572-6989

DRIVE-BY SCIENTIST MAKES MIRACULOUS DISCOVERY:
SAN FRANCISCO’S NAMESAKE PLANT FOUND
SEVENTY YEARS AFTER GOING EXTINCT IN WILD

SAN FRANCISCO— A San Francisco resident recently got an astounding view while driving the Golden Gate Bridge—the first sighting of San Francisco’s namesake manzanita in nearly seventy years.

Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp, Director of Habitat Restoration for Audubon Canyon Ranch, was driving home from speaking at a climate change conference when his attention focused on an unusual-looking plant. A few days later he revisited the site and discovered the first living specimen of the Franciscan or San Francisco manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) seen in the wild in nearly seven decades.


The San Francisco Manzanita

The Franciscan manzanita is a subtly charming flowering shrub found nowhere else on Earth. Its tragic history is filled with heroic acts by botanists striving to keep the species alive. In 1906, the specimens first used to identify the species were rescued from the California Academy of Sciences as fires driven by the San Francisco earthquake ravaged the Academy’s collections. In 1947 a famous botanist stood in front of earth-moving equipment to wrest the last known wild plants from a construction site. The plants were sent to a botanical garden, and no one found the plant in the wild again.


San Francisco Manzanita at the Former Laurel Hill Cemetery, 1937

Until now. “We are fortunate to live in such a diverse land, and discoveries like these remind us that we can build a sustainable future for all,” said Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute. “With the help of the Endangered Species Act, the world’s most effective and comprehensive conservation law, we can work in partnership to recover the San Francisco manzanita’s population and ensure that the species doesn’t go extinct a second time.”

Surprisingly, the San Francisco manzanita had never been protected under the Endangered Species Act, despite its exceptionally rare status. Today the Wild Equity Institute submitted a petition to list the species under the Endangered Species Act to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and soon the Service will be able to deploy recovery planning techniques and effective conservation strategies refined through forty years of successful application of the law. The Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society co-petitioned for the protections.

“This is a great opportunity for the Bay Area to close one of our coldest conservation cases,” said Plater. “With the best tools on the planet and some of the most innovative people in the country, I’m confident we’ll keep the Franciscan manzanita around for future generations to enjoy.”

For photos, interviews with manzanita scientists, or more information, call 415-572-6989
Click here to view the petition