CNPS Settles Strauss Lawsuit With an Eye Toward Tarplant Protection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Liv O’Keeffe
lokeeffe@cnps.org
916-447-2677, ext. 202

Gaviota tarplant (Deinandra increscens ssp. villosa). Photo: Connie Rutherford

Sept. 11, 2020, SacramentoToday, the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) announced a settlement with Strauss Wind Energy, LLC. over the development of a 100-megawatt wind energy project, located on 2,970 acres in Santa Barbara County.

The settlement supports mitigation objectives and project improvements to protect the world’s largest population of the federally- and state-endangered Gaviota tarplant (Deinandra increscens ssp. villosa). It also establishes a Plants and Pollinators Fund for public interest initiatives.

The project’s mitigation objectives include reduction of direct impacts to the tarplant during construction, salvaging the plant’s seedbank, onsite and offsite restoration, monitoring and reporting, and onsite requirements specific to the plant’s population, invasive species, habitat enhancement, and research. The agreement also establishes two expert tarplant advisory groups to monitor and oversee both onsite and offsite mitigation actions.

“CNPS supports the mitigation objectives of our agreement,” CNPS Lead Conservation Scientist Nick Jensen said. “We’re especially pleased that we’ll be participating in the tarplant management groups, where we can play a hands-on role in caring for this important and very sensitive species.”

The parties, along with government agencies, worked out a number of improvements to the project to reduce harm to the Gaviota tarplant including a reduction of the project’s grading footprint, well-funded commitments to off-site mitigation, a grazing management plan, and direct involvement of professional botanists. The changes amount to a 14 percent reduction in direct impact to habitat and as many as 130,000 individual plants saved.

“We take a serious risk any time we disturb the habitat of such a fragile species,” Jensen added. “It can have a ripple effect, not just on the species itself, but on the pollinators that depend on it, so we’ve worked really hard to reduce harm. We want to recognize Strauss Wind Energy’s willingness to support long-term local and regional conservation efforts to preserve the Gaviota tarplant.”

CNPS plans to use the Strauss Wind contribution toward the Plants and Pollinators Funds to focus on the following public interest efforts:

  • Support for pollinators: Help fund the Calscape.org native plant website to support homeowners and property managers in planting local native plant gardens that benefit pollinators.
  • Produce quality rare plant data: Continue to provide rare plant ranking and information online at no cost to consultants, scientists and others by updating the CNPS Online Inventory of Rare Plants.
  • Diversify the field: Provide scholarships, research grants, and paid internships to students and early career conservation scientists across California and its underrepresented communities. 

“We hope that through experiences like these, we all start to learn what’s possible when we work together,” said Liv O’Keeffe, senior director of communications and engagement for CNPS. “Californians want both clean energy and the protection of endangered species – not one at the expense of another. It’s time for industry, government, and scientists to do a better job of partnering to accomplish our necessary goals as a human society while protecting and even enhancing California’s remarkable biodiversity.”

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