Conservation Group Not Necessarily Opposed to Moving 'Extinct' Plant From Doyle Drive's Path

Franciscan Manzanita.jpeg
© California Academy of Sciences
A roadblock?
SF Weekly has written a little bit about the jaw-dropping recent discovery of a Franciscan Manzanita beneath mounds of overgrown plants abutting the Doyle Drive highway project. While finding a manzanita plant in coastal California is a bit like spotting a rabbit in a rabbit hutch, no one had seen a Franciscan Manzanita in the wild since 1947. This is a once-in-a-lifetime find -- and the plant is right in the path of the highway project. That's irony for you.

The tentative plan for the manzanita we're hearing from those involved in crafting it is to move the plant -- which may be 40 to 70 years old -- to a location where it could become part of a breeding population once again (while previously considered extinct in the wild, a number of Franciscan genotypes descended from clippings made in '47 reside in local botanical gardens). While, theoretically, the botanists and government officials crafting a quick turnaround conservation plant for the lone Franciscan Manzanita could order the billion-dollar highway rebuild to be drastically altered, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

As a result, some have anticipated that the Center for Biological Diversity will file suit. But Jeff Miller, a local conservation advocate with the CBD, said that's not necessarily so.

"We still have to look at what the proposal is and how viable [the manzanita] is at that site. And if there's a good plan and a good chance of success, I would imagine we'd support that," he said.

In other words, the CBD -- which files a lot of lawsuits -- is not opposed to the concept of relocating the manzanita rather than leaving it where it is. Of course, Miller notes, it's ironic (again) that species believed to be extinct -- but miraculously rediscovered -- have none of the federal protections of species on the brink of extinction. Theoretically you could find a pod of dinosaurs in McLaren Park and then slaughter the lot for Bronto Burgers.

If push came to shove, however, Miller felt that the discovery of such a plant could fall under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). "Regardless of its state or federal listing status, clearly this is a sensitive species and a rare plant ... in terms of disclosing the impacts of the project, this is something that warrants potentially supplementing the [Doyle Drive] Environmental Impact Report."

And that, among other things, would take time. And time is money. And this project is expensive.

How would Miller like to explain to the general public that his organization derailed the billion-dollar redesign of one of the state's most lethal highways?

He chuckled nervously. "No one has suggested that yet."
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