Joshua Trees should be considered endangered, risk extinction, say scientists

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

Joshua trees are now at risk of extinction due to drought, development, and wildfires, according to state wildlife authorities – who are recommending that the trees should be categorized as an endangered species.

Via the LA Times:

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife on Monday said it based its recommendation on a review of a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, which argues that the western Joshua tree’s spindly desert woodlands are “likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future” without protection under the California Endangered Species Act.


The fate of Joshua Tree National Park’s namesake plant is now in the hands of the state Fish and Game commissioners. They are to decide in June whether to accept the department’s recommendation and declare the tree a candidate for listing. If the trees are listed, the law requires state wildlife managers to devise a recovery plan for them, which could limit development on some of Southern California’s sunniest real estate.

Conservationists argue in favor of the recommendation, as recent studies have shown that  the tree’s range is contracting at lower elevations and its reproduction has all but come to halt.  Those opposed say that Joshua trees are already protected under many city and county ordinances and that stricter protections will hurt the ability of homeowners to improve their properties.

“In my opinion, Joshua trees are as majestic as redwoods,” Bob Armstrong, a real estate broker and resident of Yucca Valley for 40 years told the Times. “But it would be ridiculous to make it tougher than it already is for citizens to move a Joshua tree in order to improve their property by, say, building a swimming pool.”

A final decision is expected later this year.