The following is a press release issued by the Center for Biological Diversity:
In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to protect the Lassics lupine under the Endangered Species Act with 512 acres of critical habitat in California’s Humboldt and Trinity counties.
There are only two populations of the lupine. Both grow above 5,000 feet elevation on the talus slopes of Mt. Lassic and Red Lassic Mountain in the Six Rivers National Forest, 80 miles southeast of Eureka.
“Climate change effects in Northern California are already so severe that the Lassics lupine would be lost to extinction within 20 years without intervention,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “Now we breathe a sigh of relief that this beautiful flower finally has the Endangered Species Act’s effective protections to keep it from being lost forever.”
In 2016 the Center, the California Native Plant Society and two scientists petitioned the Service to protect the rare flower, primarily because of threats from climate change. Over the past two decades the lupine’s range has been shrinking because of drought, decreased snowpack and increasing temperatures. As conditions have become harsher, predation on the flower’s seeds from small mammals has increased, pushing it towards extinction.
The plant’s population has become so small that it would be lost to extinction from seed predation without active management efforts using cages to keep out small mammals, whose other food sources have declined. The total population of the plant has ranged from less than 200 to nearly 1,000 individuals over the past five years.
The Lassics lupine has striking, pink-rose-tinged flowers above white-silver foliage, in sharp contrast to the surrounding black and reddish barren rocky slopes where it grows. It is dependent on sufficient snowpack and adequate shade to survive on the steep mountainsides. It benefits from periodic fires that remove encroaching vegetation, but the flower can be threatened by severe fire and the invasive cheatgrass that follows.
“That this alpine flower in a protected area is on the very edge of extinction because of climate change should serve as yet another wake-up call to world governments that we have to take bold action now to save life on Earth. Otherwise the fabric of life is going to unravel, and so are we,” said Curry.
The scientists who joined the petition to list the plant are David Imper, former plant ecologist for the Arcata office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Sydney Carothers, a botanist who has been studying the lupine for more than 20 years.
The lupine was discovered in 1983. The Lassics Mountains were named after the Athapascan Lassik tribe, which was forcibly removed from the region in 1862. The species’ Latin name is Lupinus constancei, named for the famous California botanist Lincoln Constance.