The California Fish and Game Commission met recently to address issues related to the listing of the western Joshua tree as a threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
In a unanimous 4-0 vote, the Commission determined that listing western Joshua tree as threatened or endangered under the CESA may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the western Joshua tree is protected under CESA as a candidate species.
Additionally, in a 3-1 vote (Commission Vice President Samantha Murray was the dissenting vote), the Commission adopted regulations to authorize conditional take of western Joshua tree during its candidacy for 15 solar energy projects expected to break ground within the year. This emergency rulemaking is a result of discussion and consultation between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, renewable energy developers, local governments and the petitioner, the Center for Biological Diversity.
Climate change impacts pose a clear threat to public health in California and are proving to be a primary threat to the survivability of western Joshua tree. This emergency rulemaking exemplifies California’s innate ability to lead the country in fighting climate change by advancing solar projects to help keep the state on track to meet its renewable energy goals, all while protecting biodiversity.
As a reminder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Commission meetings through June 2021 will be held via webinar and teleconference.
Commission President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva were present. Commissioner Russell Burns, who had already recused himself of the western Joshua tree decision at the August meeting, was absent.
The agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for Oct. 14, 2020.
The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.