Story at a glance

  • The western Joshua tree is facing population loss due to climate change and urban development.
  • It received protection under the California Endangered Species Act in a unanimous vote.

In a historic vote, the picturesque Joshua tree will be considered for protection under the California Endangered Species Act due to climate change and habitat destruction threatening the flora’s population.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that a panel voted unanimously in a 4-0 decision to accept a year-old petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity. Joshua trees, which are classified as a type of yucca plant and a common sight in the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park, will have a protected status for a year while the Fish and Game Commission of California conducts a study investigating the species’s wellbeing. 

Per the petition request, Joshua trees qualified for the “threatened” status under the legislation.

AP notes the request said that Joshua trees meet the definition of a plant species that “is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future in the absence of the special protection and management efforts.”

Dry climate conditions and hot temperatures are one catalyst for the petition to change the Joshua trees status to “threatened.” The rampant and historic wildfires plaguing California and other Western states have also played a role in the disappearance of the trees. 


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Urban sprawl and increased development into the desert have also negatively impacted Joshua trees.

“This is a huge victory for these beautiful trees and their fragile desert ecosystem,” Brendan Cummings, conservation director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said following the California vote. “If Joshua trees are to survive the inhospitable climate we’re giving them, the first and most important thing we can do is protect their habitat. This decision will do that across most of their range.”

The same Fish and Game Commission of California also voted on an emergency exemption allowing the removal of Joshua trees for the development of 15 separate solar panel sites in Kern and San Bernardino Counties. 

The developers of the projects will pay roughly $10,000 per acre into a mitigation fund that will help preserve the Joshua tree’s habitat.


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Published on Sep 24, 2020