When biologist Daniel Gluesenkamp found a patch of Franciscan manzanita -- a native San Francisco shrub long thought to be extinct -- lying, like a long-lost Sleeping Beauty, on a Caltrans construction site in the Presidio, he had no way of predicting that the plant would become a political football.
|California Academy of Sciences|
|A botanical miracle.|
Gluesenkamp's discovery was, by all measures, a miracle. The bell-flowered shrub had languished on an extinct species list since 1947; finding one amid a pile of steel and rebar was a bit like rescuing a unicorn from a minotaur's mouth.
Native plant experts were so exultant that they persuaded the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to shell out some $200,000 to unearth and transplant the giant bush. Then a high-profile lawyer among their ranks, Brent Plater, sued U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to get it listed as an endangered species. He won handily.
And now Plater, et. al. are celebrating their next milestone: the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced its final "critical habitat" locales where the shrub can be reintroduced to its natural environment. They include five areas within the Presidio Trust and six areas of parkland -- including the hotly contested terrain on Mt. Davidson. That incited protests from locals who worried that vast swaths of public space would be closed for years.More »