Franciscan Manzanita, Once Thought Extinct, On Way to Becoming 'Endangered'

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© California Academy of Sciences
The Franciscan Manzanita: Once 'extinct,' now 'endangered'?
Usually, a species has to be endangered before it goes extinct. Not the Franciscan Manzanita. It went extinct -- and now it may become endangered.

Readers may recall the discovery last year of a Franciscan Manzanita bush -- believed extinct in the wild since 1947 -- directly in the path of the Doyle Drive rebuild project. While that bush was eventually moved out of the path of the highway in a delicate -- and costly -- operation, it didn't have to work out so neatly. In a magnificent Catch-22, the Franciscan Manzanita, because it was thought "extinct," wasn't due the protections of a species merely classified as "endangered." This irony may not occur in the future, however, thanks to actions kicked off yesterday by the federal government.

The Fish and Wildlife Department on Monday conirmed it is "initiating a review" on the status of the Franciscan Manzanita, with the possibility of including the bush on the register of plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. The review comes in response to a petition filed by San Francisco's Wild Equity Institute. You can read a copy of the feds' announcement here:

Franciscan_manzanita_90-day.pdf

Incidentally, the price tag for moving that Franciscan Manzanita out of the way of Doyle Drive turned out to be $175,000. Whilesome media outlets reported this tab was paid by the city, officials with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority told SF Weekly the funds came out of $15.1 million already earmarked for "environmental mitigation" by the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Also, considering even a short delay of a billion-dollar highway project could cause spiraling costs, the $175K was described as peanuts.

"Look, there have been dams in this country that have been stopped by some very tiny critters. It was entirely possible that discovering a unique plant species in the path of the project could have shut it down for an extended period of time," Lee Saage, the County Transportation Authority's deputy director for capital projects, told SF Weekly. "It could have been hundreds of millions of dollars. [Getting out of this for $175,000] was wonderful news."

The rare manzanita is now housed on an undisclosed Presidio location. Caltrans will provide for its care and nurturing for the next 10 years -- a sum Caltrans landscape architect Dave yam pegged at around $65,000.

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