Four Rare Plants Protected From Mining in Southern California National Forest

rare California native flowers with yellow centers and pink petals
Parish’s daisy (Erigeron parishii); Image: Chelsea Vollmer, USFS

October 20, 2023, San Bernardino—The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has banned new mining for 50 years on 2,841 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest to protect critical habitat for four threatened and endangered plant species.

The rare wildflowers grow only on soils containing calcium carbonate, which is used in medicines, toothpaste, cement, and other products.

“This mining withdrawal is a key step in protecting these highly restricted rare and endangered plants, whose habitat has already been significantly reduced by mining,” said Aaron Sims, rare plant program director at the California Native Plant Society. “High-grade calcium carbonate can be found in many other places, but the only place on the planet where these special plants live is confined to a small area in Southern California, primarily on the northern slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains.”

The mining ban announced today comes 20 years after a carbonate habitat management plan was hammered out between international mining companies, claim holders, federal and county agencies, and the California Native Plant Society. The 2003 plan was adopted by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

The withdrawal will protect habitat for the four rare plants that live only in this carbonate habitat: the Cushenbury buckwheat (Eriogonum ovalifolium var. vineum), the Cushenbury milk-vetch (Astragalus albens), the Cushenbury oxytheca (Acanthoscyphus (Oxytheca) parishii var. goodmaniana), Parish’s daisy (Erigeron parishii), and a portion of their federally designated critical habitat.

“I worked on this plan 20 years ago and I’m thrilled that this arduous process has finally been completed,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d see this happen in my lifetime. These beautiful plants now have a fighting chance at survival.”

Mining withdrawals are temporary protections but can be renewed, which will be necessary to protect these plants for the long term.

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