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U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE PROPOSES
CRITICAL HABITAT FOR THREATENED SANTA CRUZ TARPLANT


 

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE PROPOSES
CRITICAL HABITAT FOR THREATENED SANTA CRUZ TARPLANT
(Adapted from USFWS Ventura Office Press Release, 15 November, 2001)

"The Santa Cruz tarplant is a unique part of the vanishing coastal prairie and grassland ecosystems...Critical habitat highlights the areas needed by the Santa Cruz tarplant to survive. The limited range and small number of populations of this plant make it especially vulnerable to extinction. The more people who are aware of the species' habitat needs, the more likely it will be saved from extinction." - Steve Thompson (USFWS California/Nevada Operations office)

In response to a court order, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today is proposing critical habitat for the threatened Santa Cruz tarplant on about 3,360 acres in California's Contra Costa, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties. Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations. The Santa Cruz tarplant is an aromatic annual herb native to California's central coast. A member of the aster family, the Santa Cruz tarplant can reach a height of 20 inches and displays heads of yellow daisy-like flowers in summer, long after most other annual plants have begun to fade. It typically grows on coastal terrace prairies where sandy clay soils hold moisture well into the growing season. Once found along the central coast from Marin County south to Monterey County, the Santa Cruz tarplant (Holocarpha macradenia), listed as threatened in March 2000, now occurs on public and private lands in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. Private land accounts for 79 percent of the proposal; county, regional and city lands total 18 percent, and state lands make up about 3 percent. The plants have small populations with limited distribution, making them extremely vulnerable to extinction from man-made and natural causes.

The Endangered Species Act directs Federal agencies to protect and promote the recovery of federally listed species; consequently, Federal lands provide the greatest protection for endangered and threatened plants. For private and non-Federal landowners, however, consultations with the Service come into play only in cases where activities involving plants require Federal funding or permitting. In the absence of Federal involvement, the Endangered Species Act does not prohibit "take" of listed plants on private lands, but landowners must still comply with state laws protecting imperiled plants. California landowners who may have this plant on their property are encouraged to contact the state Department of Fish and Game for further guidance. On July 17, 1999, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the U .S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Service and the Secretary of the Interior for failure to designate critical habitat for the Santa Cruz tarplant. The court ordered the Service to propose critical habitat for the species by November 2, 2001. The final rule is due by May 1, 2002. To ensure a comprehensive review of this proposal, the Service is asking the public to submit any additional information and data about the species, including economic or other impacts of these designations. Copies of the proposal are available from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office at the address below, and are posted on the Service's website at: www.rl.fws.gov. Comments are invited until January 14th, 2002, and should be submitted to: Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003. Comments may also be submitted electronically by sending them to the following address: fwlsctarplant@rl.fws.gov.

PROPOSED CRITICAL HABITAT UNITS:

Mezue Unit: This unit features 150 acres of grassland habitat in Wildcat Regiona1 Park in Contra Costa County. The park lands are managed by the East Bay Regional Park District. Of the 22 sites in the park that were seeded with the tarplant between 1982 and 1986, this population has been the only one that has consistently supported a large population of the Santa Cruz tarplant.

Graham Hill Unit: This unit consists of 35 acres of privately owned coastal terrace prairie on the west side of Graham Hill Road, about one mile north of the city of Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz County. The tarplant population on this unit represents the western limit of the cluster of populations that are found at the northern end of Monterey Bay. In 1994, this population numbered 12,000 individuals. By 2001, it had declined to about 500 individuals.

De Laveaga Unit: This 7-acre parcel of nearly level coastal terrace prairie consists of federal lands managed by the California National Guard within De Laveaga Park just north of the city or Santa Cruz. This is one of a cluster of populations found at the northern end of Monterey Bay.

Arana Gulch Unit: This 65-acre unit of relatively flat coastal prairie grassland is owned and managed by the city of Santa Cruz. It is contained in an open space reserve just north of Woods Lagoon in Santa Cruz, and is bounded by west, east, and north sides by existing development and on the south side by the Santa Cruz Harbor. This unit harbors one of a cluster of populations found at the northern end of Monterey Bay.

Twin Lakes Unit: This 26-acre unit of relatively flat coastal prairie is state-owned and is located just north of Schwan Lagoon in Twin Lakes State Park within the city of Santa Cruz. This unit hosts one of a cluster of populations found at the northern end of Monterey Bay. Rodeo Gulch Unit: This 27-acre unit is privately owned and straddles the Arana Gulch and Rodeo Gulch drainages north of the community of Soquel in Santa Cruz County. It is coastal terrace prairie that is bounded on the north, east, and south by existing development; the western side is bounded by lands that have not been developed. This unit features one of a cluster of populations found at the northern end of Monterey Bay.

Soquel Unit: This 100-acre unit of coasta1 terrace prairie straddles Rodeo Gulch and Soquel Creek drainages north of the community of Soquel in Santa Cruz County. It is bounded on the north, east, and south by existing development; the western side is bounded by lands that have not been developed. About 53-acres are within Anna Jean Cummings Regional Park, which is managed by Santa Cruz County, and the rest is privately owned. This unit harbors one of a cluster of populations found at the northern end of Monterey Bay.

Porter Gulch: This 35-acre unit of privately owned grassland is on a coastal terrace that straddles the Bates Creek and Porter Gulch drainages north of the community of Soquel in Santa Cruz County. It is surrounded by undeveloped lands. This unit supports one of a cluster of populations found at the northern end of Monterey Bay.

Watsonville Unit: This 1,635-acre unit of grasslands and low-lying drainages occurs west of the city of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County. The northern and eastern boundaries are near the Corralitos Creek drainage where the boundaries bump up against existing development; the southeastern and southern boundary is the Pajaro River drainage; the western boundary generally follows Buena Vista Drive until it intersects with the northern perimeter of the Watsonville Airport. The unit excludes the paved areas of the Watsonville Airport and includes the unpaved portions surrounding the runways. Part of the unit is owned by the city of Watsonville. A small portion is under easement to the state, a small portion is a California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) reserve, and the rest is privately owned. This unit overlaps with an area that is targeted for regional conservation planning by the CDFG. This area supports multiple populations of Santa Cruz tarplant and is one of only three areas where populations of the tarplant grow in the central Monterey Bay area and in the southern end of the range of the species.

Casserly Unit: this 1,110-acre unit consists of open patches of grassland mixed in with golf-courses, cattle pastures, crop lands, and orchards in the Monterey bay area. This area supports multiple populations of the tarplant and represents the most inland distribution of the species.

Elkhorn Unit: This 1,110-acre unit consists of sloping terrain just south of the Pajaro River in northern Monterey County. The tarplant grows in a canyon bottom on property owned by the Elkhorn Slough foundation. The state also holds a conservation easement.


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