Science | September 26, 2020 4:03 pm

California Extends Environmental Protection to Joshua Trees

The trees have been devastated by wildfires lately

Joshua Trees
Joshua Trees are silhouetted against a late afternoon sun in a hazy and smoky sky.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

It’s a worrying time for California, and nearly everyone and everything that calls the state home. While people have grappled with horrific air conditions and the loss of their homes as a result of the wildfires, the region’s flora and fauna have also experienced a massive amount of destruction and displacement. It’s all been enough to prompt governmental action for one of the state’s most recognizable forms of life.

At Earther, Dharna Noor reports that the state has extended environmental protections to the Western Joshua Tree. Noor notes that this is a temporary move for now. Earlier this week, Noor writes, “the state’s Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously in favor of a petition that provides the plants protected status for a year while the state conducts a study on the dangers they face.”

Once the study is complete, the commission will determine whether or not the protections should be extended. This marks a historic event: the first time climate change has led to a plant being protected under the California Endangered Species Act.

In the last few months, wildfires have devastated California’s Joshua Tree population. The Dome Fire in August proved to be particularly destructive against the trees, leaving a series of horrific images in its wake.

As the Earther article notes, at the same time as the state commission voted to protect Joshua Trees, they also called for a much smaller number to be removed for solar energy facilities. (Noor notes that “the developers will be required to put money into a mitigation fund used to preserve Joshua trees in their other habitats.”) It’s a contentious time for California’s environment, and time will tell if these decisions carried the right balance to keep the state preserved and on the right path.

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