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California officials are considering whether to list the iconic western Joshua tree as an endangered species, making it difficult to remove trees for housing, solar or other development projects.

The desert plant is best known for its unique form, with spiky leaves at the ends of its branches, in a national park 130 miles (209 km) east of Los Angeles and extending into the desert until death. Valley National Park. There are two types of trees, considered east and west, but only west.

The California Fish & Game Commission took public comment on Wednesday hours and scheduled a vote Thursday. If the tree is listed as an endangered species, special permission from the state is required to kill one.

Brendan Cummings, director of conservation at the Center for Biological Diversity Conservation, said the state has never listed endangered species, mainly based on threats from climate change.

About 2 days later the injured hiker was rescued from Joshua Tree National Park

The center petitioned in 2019 to list the western Joshua tree as a threat, saying that extreme periods of drought caused by hot temperatures and climate change would make it harder for the species to survive by the end of the century. It has also been argued that wildfires and development threats impair the survival and reproductive capacity of trees.

Entrance to Joshua Tree National Park

Entrance to Joshua Tree National Park
(George Rose / Getty Images)

Cummings says the ongoing drought in the state is part of the worst megadot in 1,200 years, damaging the survival of trees.

“We are currently seeing a single, large-scale fatal incident,” he told the commission.

But the California Department of Fish & Wildlife recommended not listing the species as a threat. The department agreed that by 2100, areas suitable for the growth of western Joshua trees are likely to decline due to climate change. But the April report said the tree remained “abundant and widespread”, reducing the risk of extinction.

“Will climate change be bad for the Joshua tree?” That is not the question. The question is, ‘How bad, how fast can it be?’ And we do not yet know the truth, ”said Jeb McKay Bjerke, who submitted the Fisheries & Wildlife Department’s recommendation to the Commission.

Human remains have been found inside Joshua Tree National Park

It is not known how many Joshua trees there are in the state, but it ranges from 4.8 million to 9.8 million, he said. He said it was a “close call” not to recommend that the department list endangered species, and asked the department to consider the recommendation, with three out of five outside peer reviewers disagreeing with the conclusion.

40% of Joshua trees in the state are on private land. Several comments focused on the development of housing and solar projects in the area. The listing of endangered species by many local and state politicians and union workers makes it difficult to move forward with necessary projects, including those aimed at combating climate change by increasing renewable energy.

The Game Commission should consider whether to list the California Fish & Western Joshua Tree as endangered species.

The Game Commission should consider whether to list the California Fish & Western Joshua Tree as endangered species.
(AP Photo / JC Hong, File)

California sets the requirement to generate 100% of electricity from non-carbon sources by 2045.

“We believe these types of projects are the best tools in combating climate change to protect the future of the western Joshua tree,” said David Double, director of land use planning for San Bernardino County, which has a high density of trees and a lot of solar energy. Projects.

Joshua Tree National Park has been temporarily closed due to government closures

San Bernardino County, which owns Joshua Tree National Park, recently increased fines for illegally removing Joshua trees – a $ 20,000 fine for the third offense and up to six months in prison. County Supervisor Dan Rowe asked the board not to list endangered species, saying local and county governments are best prepared to respond to sanctions and illegal removal of the tree.

“We are your partner in the conservation and protection of the species,” she said.

But many other speakers argue that the state does not have time to list species as a threat, as the state faces warmer temperatures and more severe droughts and fires, all of which can damage trees. Kelly Herbinson, executive director of the Mojave Desert Land Trust, said Joshua trees are the “keystone” species of the desert, while other species depend on it for their survival.

“Climate change is a threat we still face and we realize we’re struggling to figure out the best way forward, but it’s happening and is happening now,” she told the commission.

In 2019, the federal government refused to list the tree as a protected species.