The CNPS 2015 Conservation Conference in San Jose was a huge hit! We sold out 6 workshops, 2 field trips, our DoubleTree room block, and the exhibit hall, and had over 1,000 attendees over three days. Other highlights include the Lightning Talks and Progress and Promise Talks sessions, which were superbly successful new additions to the conference this year, and the standing-room-only Reaching High: Poets & Writers event, featuring Poet Laureate Robert Hass. We had a record number of session and poster presentations as well, covering a diverse range of topics related to conservation, including spectacular student talks and posters. You can read or download all the presentation abstracts on the conference website.
Thank you to all CNPS members who volunteered, donated, and attended to represent our organization during the kick-off to CNPS's 50th birthday year! If you attended, please check out our conference survey and if you missed the big event, you can find even more highlights here!
DRECP Draft Released
Silurian Hills, photo by Greg Suba
Landscape-level land-use planning in advance of regional development is a wise approach to long-term conservation and is an approach that CNPS fully supports. In fact, several CNPS members were integral to first developing, and then revising, the Natural Communities Conservation Planning Act (NCCP Act) during the 1990's and early 2000's.
A primary goal of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP, or 'Plan') is to ensure the long-term conservation of the Plan's covered species and natural communities. The current draft DRECP falls short of the mark and needs significant revision before it represents a suitable plan for desert-wide conservation. From Plan-wide to project-level scales, the draft DRECP raises more questions than it provides certainty about native plant conservation in the desert.
The DRECP is a multi-agency effort whose goals are to guide the siting and development of desert renewable energy projects to locations where they would have fewer environmental impacts than current desert projects, while providing for the long-term conservation of desert plants, animals, and their habitats. Even in its currently flawed form, the DRECP represents a real opportunity for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to designate additional desert conservation areas. It could also advance how rare plant species and communities are identified, avoided, and mitigated for at both regional and project-level scales. For these reasons, CNPS continues to commit resources to advocating revisions to the Plan.
Sidalcea covillei - one of the ten species covered in the DRECP that has no acreage assigned. Photo by Jim Andre.
The draft Plan stiches together an arrangement of conservation land designations and conservation management actions across public and private desert lands that would be implemented in exchange for building energy projects on desert lands. While the permitting process for development is more clearly described in the Plan, quantifiable, measurable conservation goals, and even the location of the conservation reserve are not clearly identifiable within the 10,000 pages of chapters and appendices. Also ambiguous are how and over what period of time conservation management actions will occur, and how the need for additional agency staff to implement the measures will be funded.
The DRECP represents three separate plans wrapped into one. Each piece needs to be certified and administered by its respective lead agency; a Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), a General Conservation Plan (GCP) through the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and a desert-wide Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA) by the BLM.
A desert-wide NCCP?
As a desert-wide NCCP, state and federal agencies intend to build a Plan-wide conservation strategy that will ensure the conservation and recovery of species impacted by desert energy development. However, agencies have not identified how the NCCP-affiliated reserve will provide conservation over such a vast reserve area over time. The draft focuses instead on a strategy to build only that portion of the Plan-wide reserve that can be funded directly from developer fees. This is called the DRECP NCCP Reserve (see Map B). The remainder of the Plan-wide conservation needed to meet the conservation standards of the NCCP Act are intended to come from new BLM conservation lands designations (see Map C) and BLM conservation management actions, neither of which come with federal assurances of additional funding and staffing, or of the durability of the conservation designations themselves. If the CDFW were to certify an insufficient DRECP conservation strategy as having met the conservation standard of the NCCP Act, it could undermine all future NCCPs and lower the bar for plant conservation in California.
DRECP's Preferred Alternative
Of the 347 rare plants with documented occurrences in the DRECP area (among which 64 of these were recommended by CNPS for special consideration under the DRECP), the draft DRECP has included only a total of ten plants on the NCCP Covered Species list. These are Astragalus tricarinatus, Cymopterus deserticola, Calochortus striatus, Erigeron parishii, Eriophyllum mohavensis, Mimulus mohavensis, Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei, Deinandra mohavensis, Sidalcea covillei, and Linanthus maculatus.
Projects sited in Development Focus Area (DFA) zones will be required to stay one quarter mile away from all occurrences of the 10 covered plant species. Impacts to suitable habitat (based largely on species distribution models) for three of the ten plant Covered Species are limited to 0-10% of their suitable habitat within the Plan Area (A. tricarinatus, C. striatus, and O. basilaris).
Eight of the ten plant Covered Species have specific acreages of habitat to be conserved in the Plan. While CNPS fully supports using quantifiable and measurable conservation targets in landscape-level land-use planning, it is unclear how the acreage targets for these eight plant species were derived, where within DRECP subregions the acres would be, or why two of the ten covered plant species (Astragalus tricarinatus and Sidalcea covillei) have no acres specified for them.
For all other rare plants not on the NCCP Covered Species list, applicants will be required to do protocol-level plant surveys and avoid the rarest plants by fencing them between panels. This represents no additional protection beyond the standards of today's project-by-project CEQA review. Applicants will also need to map and identify rare plant communities, but can rely on conservation measures with loopholes that leave their long-term protection uncertain without measurable thresholds for impacts.
The ten covered plant species occur primarily through Owens Valley and across the West Mojave planning area where extensive DFAs are proposed (see Map A). No rare native plants in the Central and Eastern Mojave, or Sonoran/Colorado subregions of the DRECP area appear on the Covered Species list despite the fact that several rare plants occur within proposed DFAs in these areas. California Rare Plant Rank (CRPR) 1B plants like Astragalus nyensis, which are documented to occur in California only within a proposed DFA, face a future under solar panels. For at-risk plants like A. nyensis, the DRECP increases threats to their population through streamlined project permittingwithout also increasing assurances for their conservation.
Opportunities through the BLM LUPA
The BLM's Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA) component of the DRECP proposes to designate new and revised desert Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), National Landscape Conservation Lands (NLCS), and Special Recreation Management Areas (SRMAs). Lands designated for both conservation and recreation - including OHV recreation - overlap in some Plan areas, which confuses the conservation part of the LUPA equation (see Map D).
Adding ACECs and NLCS lands across the desert provides an opportunity to incorporate conservation management actions for important botanical resources that occur within each designated area. Microphyll woodlands, Joshua tree woodlands, other rare plant species and communities, as well as the ecological features that support them (e.g., sand dunes, seeps and springs) could all benefit from additional ACEC and NLCS designations. Additionally, new ACEC or NLCS designations for animal and/or culturally sensitive resources could provide indirect conservation benefits to native plants. For example, management actions established through the BLM LUPA designed to prevent impacts to desert tortoise, Mohave ground squirrel, desert bighorn sheep, fringed-toed lizards, golden eagles, least Bell's vireo, etc., could benefit the native plants threatened in the same area.
While the permanence of project impacts to the desert are clear, it is not certain how durable newly designated ACECs or NLCS lands would be under the DRECP. For example, could a future BLM land use plan amendment eliminate conservation land designations gained through the DRECP? How will we fund the management and enforcement needed to ensure newly designated conservation lands remain viable for species and communities? The draft DRECP does not clarify these questions. Much remains to be resolved before the DRECP represents the lofty conservation opportunity it set out to be, and a desert conservation plan that CNPS could support.
For more information on CNPS's input into the DRECP process, contact Conservation Program Director Greg Suba. ()
Map A(larger image | PDF 8MB)
Green areas are legally off-limits to development. Pink (DFAs) and orange areas are areas of potential energy development. Grey areas are military lands. Purple represents documented occurrences of the 10 plant Covered Species, and aqua represents the modeled habitat for the same 10 plant Covered Species. The distribution of the 10 plants are across the western Mojave region of the DRECP Plan Area. There are no plant Covered Species related to DFAs near Pahrump, across Chuckwalla Valley to Blythe, or in Imperial Valley.
Map B (larger image | PDF 8MB)
The black areas represent approximately 450,000 acres prioritized by DRECP agencies as the DRECP's NCCP Reserve. The black areas would provide only a portion of the Plan-wide conservation area and management needed to meet the conservation and recovery of the DRECP's NCCP Covered Species (plants and animals). 80% of the black area is BLM-managed public lands where the durability of conservation remains a question.
Map C(larger image | PDF 10MB)
The draft DRECP proposes to provide for the balance of NCCP Covered Species conservation needs via new and revised BLM ACEC and NLCS designations. There is real opportunity to establish BLM conservation areas and management actions for desert native plants through the DRECP's BLM LUPA process. Establishing the durability of new designations and identifying new federal funding to staff and manage them will be necessary.
Map D(larger image | PDF 10MB)
The BLM LUPA will also designate new Special Recreation Management Acreas (SRMAs), many of which will allow for OHV activity on designated routes. The overlap of SRMA, ACEC, and NLCS designations further clouds the conservation benefit provided by the DRECP's BLM LUPA process and its relationship to the DRECP NCCP conservation strategy.
Winter's sunflower: a new woody perennial known from less than ten locations in the world
It never ceases to amaze me how much there still is to learn about the native flora of California. The population of the state has surpassed 38 million people, yet we still do not have a firm number on the native plant species it contains (albeit of that 38 million, botanists are only numbered in the hundreds). That's why I was excited, but also surprised to hear from John Stebbins, a botanist from California's Central Valley, regarding a sunflower he recently described from the southern Sierra Nevada foothills, Winter's sunflower (Helianthus winteri). Of all the plants that have been described from California in the 21st century, a woody sunflower reaching 13 feet tall was one of the least that I expected. To add to my surprise, the location in which it was first collected is directly adjacent to Highway 180 east of Fresno- a major thoroughfare to and from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Lastly, to my astonishment, it produces flowers all year long, and yes, that includes January!
Perhaps I should have reminded myself that California still remains a floristic frontier, with projections that roughly 10 percent of the native flora is still not described. But still, doesn't this conjure up cryptic plants, or otherwise ephemeral or diminutive species? Winter's sunflower stands as a reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done in new species discovery. More importantly, however, it stands as a reminder that we all must strive to conserve what is left of California's natural heritage, and safeguard it for future generations to marvel, explore, and continue the discovery.
The CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants includes Rank 4, a "watch list" of rare plants. The Rank 4 plants generally have a limited distribution or are infrequent throughout a broader area in California. There are currently 585 of these plants included in the CNPS Inventory, but they often do not receive the same amount of attention as their rarer counterparts on Rank 1B or 2B do. Their overall abundance and distribution are not as well-known as many of our other rare plants.
Eriogonum shockleyi var. shockleyi is currently a Rank 4 plant in the CNPS Inventory, but is only known from about 5 populations in California. Photo by James M. Andre.
We decided it was time to take a closer look at these plants, as the Rare Plant Program has not systematically evaluated the plants on this Rank in recent years. With the help of volunteers, we gathered data from online botanical resources, compiled it, and reviewed it to develop a list of 67 plants that may be much rarer than previously thought. We still need the knowledge of local experts, however, as some or many of these plants could just be under-collected.
Currently, we are looking for data on these 67 different Rank 4 plants by soliciting feedback from botanical experts around the State. This will help us separate out the under-collected plants from the truly rare ones. If you would like to see the list of these 67 taxa, or if you think you might have data on them, please get in contact with Danny Slakey at .
2015 Plant Science Workshops
We are working on finalizing details for our 2015 Plant Science Workshops, and have an exciting schedule in the works! More details, pricing, and registration information will be posted very soon on the workshops webpage. Please contact Becky Reilly (), CNPS Events Coordinator, for more information.
Rare Plant Survey Protocols: A Scientific Approach
East Bay/Sacramento Area (TBD)
CNDDB & BIOS
CDFW Office of Training & Development, Sacramento
Measuring & Monitoring Plant Populations
Sierra Foothills Research & Extension Center, Browns Valley
Introduction to Plant Family Identification
Center for Earth Concerns, Taft Gardens, Ojai
Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Releve
El Portal Community Center, Yosemite National Park
Introduction to Plant Family Identification
Sagehen Field Station, Truckee
Vegetation Rapid Assessment/Releve
CEQA Impact Assessment
Chapter Events - A Sampling from Around the State
To connect to your local chapter, or to find other events in your region, see this page for a list and map of CNPS chapters. Even more events from CNPS chapters and partners can be viewed on the Horticulture Events Calendar.
East Bay Chapter
Learn to Identify Animal Tracks!
Wednesday, February 4, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
El Sobrante Library Community Meeting Room, 4191 Appian Way
Have you ever been on a hike and gotten the feeling that you're being watched? Then only moments later, you hear the crashing of vegetation as something hurriedly moves away from you? What was it… a cow, a deer, a mountain lion!!? Wouldn't you like to know what was hiding just out of sight? Then join SPAWNERS at our upcoming public meeting where EBMUD biologist Jonathan Price will teach audience members how to identify animal tracks from a variety of local wildlife. Winter is a wonderful time to learn about animal prints because the wet ground allows us to more clearly identify tracks. Tracking animals is also a fun and interesting way to spend time outdoors, embracing the rainier winter weather. We hope to see you there!
Yerba Buena Chapter
Program: Restoring Native American Land Stewardship
Thursday, February 5, 7:30 PM
Dr. M. Kat Anderson will discuss the way Native Americans adapted to the environment and the plants they used in their lives. Valentin Lopez will discuss the Amah Mutsun's efforts to restore their indigenous knowledge of ethnobotany and traditional Native American Land Stewardship. He will also introduce the goals of their recently developed Amah Mutsun Land Trust. Kat Anderson is professor of ethnic studies at UC Davis and is the author of a recent book, Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources. Valentin Lopez is the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, one of three historic tribes that are recognized as Ohlone. The Amah Mutsun are comprised of the documented descendants of Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. Chairman Lopez is also President of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. The Amah Mutsun are currently working to have their Federal Recognition Status restored as it was illegally terminated by the federal government in about 1929. Recreation Room, Francisco County Fair Building, 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
S.P. Taylor State Park Habitat Restoration Party
Sunday, February 8, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Join the Zen of Weeding Volunteers on the second Friday and second Sunday of every month from 1 to 3 PM. 2015 is our fifth year of habitat restoration at Samuel P. Taylor State Park in collaboration with Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN). Bring your favorite gloves and get a free parking pass when you volunteer. We meet just before 1 PM at the far end of the main picnic area. Turn in at the Camp Taylor sign. Camp Taylor, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Lagunitas, CA 94938. Nancy Hanson: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Los Angeles International Airport Dunes are well known for its endangered inhabitant, the El Segundo Blue Butterfly, but it is also home for over 900 other species, 151 of them arthropod species, and at least 10 species which appear restricted to the El Segundo sand dunes and an additional 25 found only on southern California coastal dunes systems. The plant communities found in the coastal dunes are specialized coastal sage scrub: foredune and backdune, and a highly disturbed coastal sage scrub/coastal prairie/meadow ecotone that is currently being restored. 19 plants of special interest that occur in small numbers in the dunes include Chorizanthe californica var. Sukdorfii, the El Segundo dunes spineflower. Peggy Nguyen, Preserve Manager for the Coastal Dunes and El Segundo Blue Butterfly Preserve, will share the successes of past restoration efforts, and discuss current restoration methods, and the important role of community and active environmental citizenship in the long-term sustainability of those efforts. First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica.
Leaders David Torfeh and Saudamini Sindhar will lead a gentle hike up Sulphur Mountain to see what has bloomed this winter after the "normal" rainfall so far. Experience a pleasant hike with your Valentine and learn the plants and birds of Sulphur Mountain. Bring sun protection, water, snacks/lunch (including chocolate), boots, binoculars, and appropriate clothing. Anything more than light rain cancels. Children of any age who are interested in plants, birds, and butterflies are welcome. For more information or to RSVP call David at 794-5334. David Magney has previously prepared a checklist of the plants found on this hike, which is available on the Plant Checklists page of the chapter website.
Meet at the CSU Chico Health Center parking lot at Warner St. & College Ave. From there we will walk the short distance to the Biological Sciences Greenhouses. Tim Devine has collected hundreds of unusual plants from all over the world and is eager to show them to you and relate their stories. In the tropical room he will show you vanilla bean orchid, coffee tree, and banana. In the aquatic room you will see many ferns, water lettuce, and blue-flowered water hyacinths. In the desert room there are usually a few cacti in bloom. Invite your favorite Valentine's Day partner to enjoy the show. Leader: Tim Devine, phone (530) 345-8444.
Our next meeting will have two informal group discussions for those interested in plant ID and/or native plant gardening from 6-7 PM. At 7:00 our speaker, David Chipping, CNPS Fellow, Emeritus Professor of Geology at CalPoly SLO, will be speaking on the wonders of the Carrizo Plain. Hall Ambulance Community Room 1031 21st St, Corner of N St. & 21st St, Bakersfield.
Milo Baker Chapter
Field Trip: Goodspeed Trail at Sugarloaf State Park
Sunday, February 22, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Check out the many beautiful species of manzanitas and ceanothus in bloom along the Goodspeed Trail at Sugarloaf with Peter Warner. Along the way, learn a little about how to tell the manzanita species apart. Meet to carpool at 9:30 at Hwy 12 park and ride (some of us have passes for free entry into park) or at 10am in the parking lot just inside the Sugarloaf State Park entrance. Bring bag lunch, hat, water, etc. Questions to Betty, email@example.com or 707-595-1463.
Talk: At What Cost? Putting our Deserts to Work
Wednesday, February 25, 7:00 PM
As part of Redbud Chapter's new "Passionate about (Native) Plants Lecture Series", meet CNPS's Conservation Director Greg Suba, and learn more about the wonders of- and perils to- California's deserts in light of the push for large-scale energy development. Madelyn Helling Library Community Room, 980 Helling Way, Nevada City, CA 95959.
We have found spring happening on this trail in February in previous years. See the March 2010 issue of Darlingtonia for a write-up of our most recent trip here.(It's on our web site.) Osoberry, Red-flowering Currant, Western Coltsfoot, Candyflower, Milkmaids, Smith's Fairy Bells, Western Trillium and Giant Purple Trillium (Trillium ovatum and T. kurabayashii) in bloom, 10 species of fern, 6 of umbellifers... Is that enough temptation? We will shuttle cars to Lagoon Creek, where Highway 101 meets the ocean north of Klamath, and then start walking from the spectacular Requa trailhead on the north side of the mouth of the Klamath River. It's a 4-mile, gentle hike. We might visit Hidden Beach along the way. Meet at 8:30 a.m. at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd., Arcata) or arrange a place farther north. Dress for being in the weather all day! Bring lunch and water. Return late afternoon. Please tell Carol you are coming 822-2015.
Contributors and Photo Credits
Sidalcea covillei, one of ten plants on the NCCP Covered Species list without allotted acreage - Jim Andre