The California Fish & Game Commission voted on Thursday to continue the Western Joshua Tree issue to September, prolonging the question of whether the trees should be listed as threatened or endangered. The continuation allows the Commission, local officials, and energy developers to work towards an agreement.
“The standard has been met for candidacy,” said Fish & Game Commission President Eric Sklar at the commission meeting. “However, I want to give the parties the opportunity to come to a consensus.”
The Fish & Game Commission extended to a special meeting in September to act within the 90 day extension period allowed under the law.
If the parties do not reach an agreement, the Commission will likely advance the process of listing Western Joshua Trees as threatened or endangered. Should the Commission move forward with the threatened or endangered listing, a one-year status review will commence before a final decision is made.
Thursday’s hearing lasted for several hours, with more than 100 people testified electronically before the California Fish & Game Commission. The vast majority of the speakers supported the Commission’s decision to continue to move forward with the process to list as endangered. Brendan Cummings, the Center for Biological Diversity’s conservation director said, “These beautiful trees face huge threats that could drive them extinct in the wild. We urge the state to finalize these protections quickly so Joshua trees can survive and thrive in California for generations to come.”
However, local governments, energy producers, and labor groups opposed the measure. According to Christopher Carr, attorney for renewable energy associations, accepting the Petition would impede development of wind and solar projects currently under development, and frustrate the achievement of California’s goals to entirely eliminate greenhouse gases from its electricity supply.”
The Center for Biological Diversity initially petitioned the Commission in October 2019 to list the Western Joshua Tree as threatened under California’s Endangered Species Act. Upon the filing, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife developed an evaluation report. In April, the Fish & Game Commission approved the evaluation report, which allowed the petition process to continue.