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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Local Environmentalists Sue U.S. Government for "Failing to Protect" Manzanita Plant

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 8:50 AM

A gem of a discovery
  • A gem of a discovery

The saga over the effort to protect the rare and precious Franciscan Manzanita plant escalated on Tuesday when the San Francisco Wild Equity Institute filed a lawsuit against U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The group claims his agency failed miserably in protecting the plant that was magically discovered two years ago.

Readers might recall when a conservationist stumbled across the "extinct" plant at the Doyle Drive project in the Presidio in 2009. The plant was last seen in the wild in 1947, when legendary local botanist

James Roof ran in front of a mass of bulldozers to pluck a handful of the bushes just before they were ripped from the ground as the

former Laurel Hill Cemetery was converted into homes and buildings.

The plant had not been seen again until the 2009 discovery.

Environmentalists, shocked and thrilled by the discovery, ran tests to make sure it was indeed the extinct Franciscan Manzanita plant -- and it was. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission then spent more than $170,000 relocating the 1-foot-tall plant to a safer place within the Presidio. Officials also took clipping from the plant so they can reintroduce it into other public spaces throughout the city.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have tried to reverse the plant's status from extinct to endangered. Since the plant had been declared extinct, it was never given the protection it deserved, says Brent Plater, Executive Director of the Wild Equity Institute.

Yet Plater's group hoped to rectify that, petitioning the federal government to list the plant as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. However, the feds have yet to make any move that would formally protect the plant. As a result, the group turned around and sued this week.

"When asked why, the Service has not been forthright," Plater said in a statement. "The Service has had over 60 years to get its story straight, and the Franciscan Manzanita simply cannot afford further delay."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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