Protect the Shasta Snow Wreath

Plans to raise the Shasta Dam by more than 18 feet could wipe out entire occurrences of the rare Shasta snow wreath. An endangered species listing could help. Help us take action by April 10!

By Nick Jensen

Shasta Snow Wreath. Credit Ken DeCamp.

UPDATE April 20, 2020

Late last week, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to advance  petitions to list Shasta snow wreath and Central Coast and Southern California populations of mountain lions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) .
This decision means that snow wreath and populations of mountain lions are now candidates under the ESA. As candidates, these species are afforded the same protections as listed species, pending a final decision by the commission next year.
Thank you very much to each of you that submitted letters in support of the Fish and Game Commission’s decision to protect these imperiled species.


New plant discoveries are not uncommon in the California Floristic Province, one the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. Sometimes these discoveries occur near major highways or in plain site. “A California botanist does not have to mount a costly or dangerous expedition to the depths of the neotropics in order to discover striking new species,” mused Dean Taylor  in Fremontia, Vol. 22 No 23 upon his 1992 discovery with Glenn Clifton of Neviusia cliftonii, Shasta snow wreath, near a highway. “Our own backyard will do.”

We now know that Shasta snow wreath is in an obscure part of the rose family tree, the Kerrieae, with only four species worldwide. We know that a distant relative occurs in the fossil record in the Pacific Northwest. Plants like snow wreath are often called paleoendemics, species that were likely more widespread in past climates or habitats and are now restricted to limited areas with suitable growing conditions.

From a conservation perspective, we have come to realize that Shasta snow wreath is incredibly rare. It is restricted to a small area of Shasta County, where it has been documented from 24 locations. These occurrences cover a remarkably small area, with its entire range spanning 20 miles from north to south and 12 miles from east to west. And, nearly all of these locations are within a short distance of or are immediately adjacent to Shasta Lake. Without a doubt, Shasta snow wreaths were inundated when the dam was built and habitats were flooded.

Shasta snow wreath is an example of resilience. Snow wreath has survived millions of years on Earth. It survived ice ages, fires, volcanic eruptions, and floods. But today, it faces perhaps what is its most potent threat. With the proposal to raise Shasta dam by more than 18 feet, entire occurrences of snow wreath could be wiped out.

The threat of raising Shasta Dam has spurred petitions to list Shasta snow wreath under the California and Federal Endangered Species Acts. On April 15-16, the California Fish and Game Commission will address whether listing snow wreath as endangered is warranted. A decision in this direction would initiate a one-year review period and advance Shasta snow wreath as a candidate for listing. Increased protections secured under the California Endangered Species Act will ensure that actions affecting Shasta snow wreath on private and public lands receive the utmost scrutiny.

Shasta snow wreath needs your help. I am asking each of you to write the Fish and Game Commission and urge them to support the listing of snow wreath as Endangered. Comments are due by the end of the day on Friday, April 10. Please see this template letter: (PDF format / MS Word format).

Thank you for your immediate help!


Nick Jensen, CNPS Southern California Conservation Analyst

Nick Jensen is the lead conservation scientists for the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and a fellow of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Jensen earned his PhD in botany at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG)/Claremont Graduate University. As a graduate student he produced the first Flora of Tejon Ranch (* in preparation) and studied evolutionary patterns in perennial jewelflowers.  For more information please contact him at Nick Jensen at njensen@cnps.org.

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5 Comments

  1. I hope everyone who sees this will write to Fish and Game. Raising of the Shasta Dam would be disastrous not only for the Shasta Snow Wreath, but also for all the surrounding habitat which includes the incredibly beautiful and diverse Lower McCloud River drainage as well as Wintu tribal sacred sites.

  2. April 10, 2020
    Mr. Eric Sklar, President
    California Fish and Game Commission
    P.O. Box 944209
    Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
    Sent electronically to: fgc@fgc.ca.gov
    Support for Petition to List Shasta snow wreath as an endangered under the California
    Endangered Species Act
    Dear Mr. Sklar,
    Thank you very much for the opportunity to provide comments on the proposal to list Shasta
    snow wreath as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. Protecting our
    state’s biodiversity is a core value of California’s citizens. Given the reality of climate change,
    habitat loss, and a whole host of other threats it is especially important to conserve plants like
    Shasta snow wreath.
    Shasta snow wreath (Neviusia cliftonii) is an emblem of how special our state’s biodiversity is.
    Species like Shasta snow wreath are a primary reason that most of California is recognized as
    one of 36 Global Biodiversity Hotspots. Shasta snow wreath is a rare shrub in the Rose Family,
    discovered in 1992, that only occurs in Shasta County. It is a remarkably rare species with only
    24 documented locations spanning a range of 20 miles from north to south and 12 miles from
    east to west. Globally-speaking, that is it! Consequently, it is of utmost importance that public
    and private landowners take actions to conserve and properly manage for all populations of
    Shasta snow wreath.
    The proposal to raise Shasta Dam threatens numerous populations of Shasta snow wreath via
    inundation and activities associated with construction. While many populations of this species
    occur on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service others occur on land that is privately owned.
    The increased protections afforded by its listing as endangered under the California
    Endangered Species Act will ensure that actions affecting Shasta snow wreath on private and
    public lands receive the utmost scrutiny.
    I strongly support a decision by the Fish and Game Commission that listing Shasta snow wreath
    under the California Endangered Species Act is warranted, and initiating a one-year status
    review period.
    Thank you very much for supporting the conservation of California’s rare flora.
    Sincerely, Wendy Gollop

  3. It doesn’t make sense to that you are trying to save a plant that is just been discovered that’s been around for millions of years.I currently have 160 acres and my trees are dying from drought caused by sending our water to southern California.I would think that you would put your resources toward saving the whole of Mount Shasta than a little obscure flower. And I’m sure that the flower will probably survive another million years without your help even if you raise Mount Shasta 18 ft which might save many more species and plants and wildflowers fires that will occur dealing with the lack of underground water this being towed away to southern California. I don’t mean to be rude but these are facts I believe have not been researched.if nobody else steals the water that we raised by raising the water level 18 ft we should have more water that we had before feeling possibly the underwater aqueducts they’re spread around the area permitting more trees to get more water so they’re more healthy.if you’re concerned about the species being a rare collect some seeds put it in the seed bank and I’ll buy seeds to introduce them around my rib it’s all my property further expanding the native species of the area.

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