Conservationists submit petition urging California to protect Joshua trees

"Joshua Tree"by simplethrill is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A petition is asking California too recognize Joshua trees as “threatened” amid rising concerns that the trees are dying off due to hotter and drier conditions as well as urban sprawl.

The Center for Biological Diversity issued the petition Tuesday to California’s Fish and Game Commission. In it, the group says that the western Joshua tree needs protection under the California Endangered Species Act, due to threats from people and climate change, according to AP News.

The request states that the trees meet the definition of a plant that “is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future in the absence of the special protection and management efforts.”

Researchers have found that Joshua trees are dying off due to hotter and drier conditions, and fewer young trees are surviving, according to the center, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona.

The trees are migrating to higher elevations where there are cooler and more moist conditions, but they face destruction by fire due to invasive, non-native grasses in those locations.

Joshua trees also face challenges due to urban sprawl in the desert as well degradation of habitat for energy projects, powerlines, pipelines and off-road-vehicle use.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife now has three months to make a recommendation based on the petition to the Fish and Game Commission, which would then vote on  protecting the Joshua trees next year.