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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense
Wildlife Officials Recommend Protection for California's Tricolored Blackbirds, Lassics Lupine Wildflower
SACRAMENTO, February 8, 2018 — Acting on a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife today recommended that tricolored blackbirds be protected as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act. The department also recommended protecting the rare Lassics lupine mountain wildflower as endangered. The recommendations now go to the state’s Fish and Game Commission.
“Tricolored blackbirds and Lassics lupine are in deep trouble and definitely need protection to reverse their slide toward extinction,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center. “With surveys showing ongoing population declines for both species, the state’s recommendations are spot on.”
The Center and Dave Imper, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, filed a state petition to protect the Lassics lupine in 2016. Found only in two small areas on the the Six Rivers National Forest, the Lassics lupine’s total population is estimated at fewer than 500 plants. The flower is threatened with extinction due to effects of global climate change including decreased snowpack and drought, habitat changes in absence of fire and increased seed predation by small mammals.
Tricolored blackbirds have been protected as a candidate species for state protection since 2016. The Fish and Game Commission will decide whether to list the species in April. Tricolored blackbirds have declined by nearly 90 percent since the 1930s. Today’s recommendation is the result of four attempts by the Center to secure protections for the birds.
The birds once formed massive nesting colonies of millions of birds in California’s Central Valley. But they have declined dramatically due to destruction of wetlands and native grasslands, shooting and pesticide use. Mowing and harvesting crops that tricolored blackbirds use for nesting has also devastated populations.
Comprehensive statewide surveys found only 395,000 tricolored blackbirds in 2008, followed by a decline to 259,000 in 2011 and only 145,000 in 2014 — the smallest population ever recorded. The 2017 survey appears to show a small population rebound, with 177,656 blackbirds observed. Scientists are concerned that increased survey efforts are responsible for the fact that more blackbirds were found, rather than recovery.
The Center first petitioned for emergency protection for tricolored blackbirds in 2004, which the Fish and Game Commission rejected. It petitioned again for emergency protection in 2014. The commission implemented emergency protections from nest destruction and shooting, which expired in June 2015. Finally, in December 2015, the commission designated the tricolored blackbird as a candidate under the California Endangered Species Act list, providing temporary protection for the birds.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.