Small Tahoe plant taken off endangered species list
Successful conservation actions from a collaborative Lake Tahoe partnership spanning the past 15 years helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decide last week that the Tahoe yellow cress, a flowering perennial plant in the mustard family found only along the popular Lake’s sandy shoreline, does not warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The service decided to remove the plant from the candidate species list after an analysis of the best available scientific and commercial data showed that previously identified habitat threats along the Lake’s shore no longer pose a significant risk to the health and persistence of the species, according to an Oct. 7 news release.
The significant reduction of those threats was guided by a proactive conservation strategy developed in 1999 and implemented in 2002 by a consortium of federal and California and Nevada state, local and private partners that remained committed to conserving the plant’s unique ecosystem, thereby eliminating the need for federal regulation.
“The efforts of the Lake Tahoe area working group and its technical team and the partnerships they’ve built over the past decade to protect this unique plant have truly exemplified the most basic function of the ESA — to protect and conserve ecosystems and the species that depend upon them,” said Ted Koch, Reno Fish and Wildlife Office Field Supervisor. “They have continued to raise the standards for the next generation of conservation and convinced us that Tahoe yellow cress has a bright future on the beautiful shores of Lake Tahoe.”
Tahoe yellow cress is a low-growing, herbaceous perennial in the mustard family. Its leaves are fleshy, oblong-shaped and pinnately lobed, or resembling a feather.
Its flowers are yellow with small, plump, round fruits. Due to the continual annual fluctuation of Lake Tahoe water levels, much variability in the amount of suitable and occupied habitat exists for the species.
However, during the most recent, on-the-ground survey in 2014, biologists found the species thriving at 36 of the 49 habitat sites they studied.
The Service declared Tahoe yellow cress a candidate species under the ESA in 1980, but removed it from the list in 1996.
In 1999, the Service returned the species to candidate status because years of higher lake levels had inundated its habitat, resurrecting concerns for the plant’s limited distribution, small population sizes, and the inability to adequately control human impacts around the shore.