2003 SCB Symposium
Back From the Brink:
Conservation Success Stories


Planning Into Practice: Success stories from a regional conservation effort in New England for over 100 rare plant species.
Elizabeth Farnsworth, Research Ecologist, New England Wild Flower Society, Framingham, Massachusetts.

In 1999, the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS) began an ambitious, five-year project to produce peer-reviewed, comprehensive Conservation and Research Plans for 100 species listed as rare in one or more New England states. The species were chosen from over 300 that were reviewed in the Flora Conservanda, published in Rhodora in 1996. These plans build upon the framework of the USFWS Endangered Species Recovery Plans; however, these are not regulatory documents, and as such can address declining species proactively and rapidly before their status reaches critical endangerment.
Each Plan thoroughly reviews the taxonomy, ecology, biogeography, and conservation status of every known New England population, and synthesizes the state of our knowledge about each taxon throughout its entire range. Each Plan then develops a set of quantitative, prioritized objectives designed to ensure the taxon's viability in New England throughout the next twenty years, based on its current status, its apparent habitat requirements, and the feasibility of alleviating threats and protecting populations at extant and new localities. Each Plan stipulates specific actions, including monitoring, protection activities, management, ex situ collection, scientific studies, and others, that will meet these objectives. Plans are subjected to three rounds of rigorous, extra- and intra-mural peer review. To date, eighty such Plans have been published and thirty more are underway, exceeding our original goal with leverage from the U. S. Forest Service and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. See abridged versions of these plans at http://www.newfs.org -- an excellent source of background information about a diversity of rare plant species.

These plans do not gather dust; many of these actions are already being implemented at specific sites. Conservation partners and over 450 volunteers, including amateur and professional botanists, students, academic researchers, land trust members, and conservation managers, work with NEWFS to put plans into practice. Among the success stories made possible by this planning project are:

This planning project can provide a model for other such efforts nationwide.

Protecting Rare and Endemic Plants with Exclosures on Santa Catalina Island, California
Denise Knapp, Vegetation Specialist, Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, Avalon, California.

Catalina Island is the home of numerous rare and endemic plants, including six extant species found only on the island. The Catalina Island Conservancy owns and manages 88% of the island. One of the most serious threats to these species is non-native animals, including mule deer and, until recent removal, feral goats and pigs. Three separate fencing and outplanting projects have protected some of Catalina's rarest species.

Trask's mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae) is perhaps the rarest tree on the continent, and regeneration has been threatened by non-native animals. Following successful protection of individual plants, the entire gully where this Catalina endemic is found was fenced in 1999. Today more than 100 seedlings and saplings have joined the seven remaining pure individuals of this endangered plant. Experimental outplanting is planned to expand the population and learn more about the requirements of this species. The fencing led to another exciting find; Santa Cruz Island rock cress (Sibara filifolia), which had not been seen on the island for almost 30 years and was presumed extinct until 1986, was found growing within this exclosure in 2001.

Fourteen groves of Santa Catalina Island ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. floribundus) were burned in the Goat Harbor Fire of 1999. Early monitoring indicated that basal sprouts of the burned trees were being decimated by mule deer. Ten of the most endangered groves have been fenced to date, along with several experimental Island scrub oak (Quercus pacifica) plots. Not only have the ironwood groves been successfully protected, but several other rare species, including Island rush-rose (Helianthemum greenei) and Channel Island tree poppy (Dendromecon harfordii), have survived within the exclosures.

Cliff spurge (Euphorbia misera) is a rare species in California and until now has survived in only one location on Catalina. Thirty-two of these plants were outplanted on a ridge above Little Harbor in 2000. Because reproduction in the existing population is currently thought to be low to nonexistent, we built an exclosure around a portion of these plants to determine if browsing and/or trampling threatens this plant.

Data from these and other projects are helping to guide the Conservancy in its efforts to protect the unique species and communities of Catalina Island.

Land use planning for rare plants and mining in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Scott D. White, White & Leatherman BioServices (presenting)
Scott Eliason, San Bernardino National Forest
Ileene Anderson, California Native Plant Society

A suite of five plants federally listed as threatened or endangered are endemic to the northern San Bernardino Mountains, where they occur on soils developed from carbonate (limestone or dolomite) rock. The local carbonate deposit is also valuable to industry, and is mined for cement and a variety of specialty products. A working group of public agencies, the mining industry, claimholders, and conservation advocates have prepared a document, the Carbonate Habitat Management Strategy (CHMS), to provide for long-term conservation of the five listed plants and at the same time allow continued mining on the most valuable mineral deposits. The CHMS's major provisions are (1) to establish large core conservation areas prior to approving new mining plans, and (2) to require additional habitat set-aside on a per-acre basis for new mining approvals. The CHMS can be viewed on line at the following site.

Preserving Desert Rare Plants in the Coachella Valley: the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan

Cameron Barrows, Center for Natural Lands Management
Monica Swartz, Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside

The Coachella Valley, from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea, is home to two federally listed endangered plants and three other plant species that are endemic or nearly endemic to the area. Natural communities including dynamic sand dunes, mesquite hummocks, and native desert fan palm oases are significant elements of the rich biodiversity. At the same time, rapid population growth and land development continue here at rates far outpacing the national average. The need for a comprehensive approach to regional planning to balance habitat conservation with growth is urgent. Through a cooperative effort among landowners, local, state, and federal agencies, business, and conservation interests the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Communities Conservation Plan (CVMSHCP) will provide for long-term conservation of rare and endangered plant and animal species, and significant natural communities. Though controversial in some areas, in the Coachella Valley the MSHCP approach provides a crucial benefit. Conserving native plant and other species populations requires protection of not just their habitats but also the ecological processes that maintain these habitats. The Coachella Valley milkvetch (Astragalus lentiginosus var. coachellae) depends on wind-blown sands to maintain the dune habitats where it occurs. Other species, the Little San Bernardino Mountains linanthus (Linanthus maculatus) and triple-ribbed milkvetch (Astragalus tricarinatus) among them, depend on flooding events. The key elements of this MSHCP are: 1) protection of core habitat areas large enough to sustain plant populations and natural communities; 2) protection of essential ecological processes that maintain these habitats; 3) conservation of biological corridors and linkages to provide connectivity; 4) a program to monitor species and natural communities, and long-term threats such as invasive weeds, within the reserve system. This regional plan provides for a long-term, comprehensive approach to habitat conservation, incorporating large-scale ecological processes and biological corridors. It also ensures ongoing, coordinated monitoring to track species and natural communities and to assess and manage threats. A Public Review Draft is scheduled for release in late 2003. For more information about the Plan, visit the CVAG website at http://www.cvmshcp.org.