Endangered Manzanita – Reopened Comments until July 29, 2013

six-dollar franciscan manzanita

Franciscan Manzanita – Nursery specimen, six dollars

US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has reopened the comment period  for its designation of “critical habitat” for an endangered manzanita.

[You can find the Notification HERE]

This designation will likely mean significant access restrictions and possibly other unfortunate effects such as tree-removal and prescribed burns.

The new notice adds new acreage – especially around McLaren Park and Glen Canyon Park (wrongly labeled Diamond Heights) – to bring the total in Natural Areas to 203 acres (of a total of ~1100 acres of Natural Area Program land)

If you wish to comment, you can do so online HERE (look for the “comment now” button on the top right) or mail them a letter. Comments will not be anonymous. If you already sent a comment last time round, you don’t have to re-send it. It’s on record. But if you have additional thoughts, you can certainly send an additional comment.

From US FWS website:

Written Comments: You may submit written comments by one of the following methods:

(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2012-0067, which is the docket number for this rulemaking.

(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2012-0067; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information). [That's at the same link.]

BACKGROUND

Some months ago, a specimen of manzanita (arctostaphylos franciscana)  – found during the Doyle Drive project in San Francisco – was declared a federal endangered species.

Though difficult to grow from seed, this manzanita is easy to clone.  You can buy plants originating from cuttings (from a different specimen of the same plant) for about $6.

The details are HERE

US Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of designating critical habitat for this plant within San Francisco.

If this manzanita, which now has the legal status of a Federally endangered species, is planted in these areas, it will get the same protection as if it occurred there naturally. This will likely mean access restrictions; it could mean the felling of trees because this species needs full sun; and potentially might even require prescribed burns (to allow its seeds to germinate).

We wrote about that HERE.

COMMENT PERIOD REOPENED

US FWS has reopened its comment period. It discovered it was inadvertently using the wrong map, which overstated all the acreages. It’s corrected the acreage in its revised notification. It is currently asking for a total of  197 acres, of which 51 are Federal, 133 are city-owned, and 13 are private.

  • More importantly, the National Parks Service has asked for a reduction in the Federal areas, to protect its restoration efforts for other Native Plants, and also to preserve its historic forests.
  • Meanwhile, SFRPD staff have proposed an additional 73 acres to be designated as critical habitat: 56 acres in McLaren Park (which was not included earlier at all); and an additional 14 acres in “Diamond Heights” (actually, Glen Canyon and the area above O’Shaughnessy Boulevard). It’s also requested the designation of 3 acres of private land in the same area.
  • If this goes through as notified, nearly a fifth of the Natural Areas (203 acres of 1100) will be designated critical habitat for this plant – even though the plant was originally found only in four locations in San Francisco.

WHERE ARE THESE AREAS?

The colored map here broadly indicates all the areas that are to be designated as critical habitat.

Franciscan Manzanita map updated July 2013In more detail, here is the revised map for Glen Canyon. The two areas called “Subunit 9A” and “subunit 9B” are newly added to the proposed designation of critical habitat.

glen canyon updated 1

These are the two maps for McLaren Park. This park was not included in the earlier designation.

mclaren 1 sm mclaren 2 sm

WHAT DOES “CRITICAL HABITAT” MEAN?

By designating “critical habitat” the USFWS says, in essence, that these areas are so important to the conservation of the species that they must not be changed by the Federal government – or by any activity it funds or authorizes.

From the USFWS notification:

Section 3 of the Act defines critical habitat as the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species and that may require special management considerations or protection, and specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species.

“If the proposed rule is made final, section 7 of the Act will prohibit destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat by any activity funded, authorized, or carried out by any Federal agency. Federal agencies proposing actions affecting critical habitat must consult with us on the effects of their proposed actions, under section 7(a)(2) of the Act.”

If these “endangered” plants are introduced, we can expect that the Natural Areas Program will want to protect them. This may mean:

  • Restricting access (perhaps with fencing);
  • Cut down any trees shading the plants since they require full sun; and
  • Maybe even seek to get permission for prescribed burns, since it’s possible the Franciscan manzanita needs fire to germinate. (This is believed true of the closely-related Raven’s manzanita.)

It will also mean that the area cannot be planted with anything that clashes with the manzanita in its requirements – including large shrubs and bushes (even if native). It will probably mean more pesticide use, to keep other plants from encroaching on the area where they’re trying to grow this one.

WHAT IS THIS PLANT AND IS IT ENDANGERED?

We mentioned before that Franciscan manzanita plants, grown from cuttings of another specimen, have been available in plant nurseries for some 50 years.   This plant, the Doyle Drive manzanita, is presumed to be a different individual of the same species. If so, this is good because it would add a little genetic diversity. However, until someone does a DNA analysis, we cannot tell if it’s true.

  • It could be a nursery plant that someone introduced; the neighboring plants were non-native and very likely deliberately planted. In that case, it will be genetically identical to the others.

  • It could be a cross with another manzanita species. Manzanitas generally hybridize really easily, and some scientists think this is a cross between Franciscan manzanita and arctostaphylos uva-ursi.

It’s complicated with manzanitas. They adapt to any little change in their environment, and they are easily crossed with other manzanita species. As a result, scientists often have to re-define which are species, which are subspecies, and which are mistakenly considered a separate species when they’re not.

WHAT ARE ITS CHANCES?

There’s a closely-related  manzanita species, Raven’s manzanita, that is also as endangered. For over 30 years now – and an estimated $23 million – people have been trying to bring it back. The definition of success would be two generations of plants produced from seed (not cuttings) and some spontaneous populations in the wild. That’s not much of a target to achieve – but it isn’t happening.

So with all the time, trouble, and expenditure – what are the chances of the closely-related Franciscan manzanita succeeding?

Franciscan manzanita

Franciscan manzanita

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2 Responses to Endangered Manzanita – Reopened Comments until July 29, 2013

  1. Pingback: Land Grab by NAP – Expanding Mazanita “Designated” Area | San Francisco Forest Alliance

  2. Pingback: How to Define ‘Biodiversity’ | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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