Death Valley Wildflower Latest Endangered Species Act Success Story

Eureka Valley evening primrose photo courtesy USFWS

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 26, 2018 — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a rule today declaring the Eureka Valley evening primrose successfully recovered under the Endangered Species Act.

The wildflower grows on sand dunes in the area of Death Valley National Park and was protected under the Act in the late 1970s because of threats from off-road vehicle recreation.

“I’m grateful this beautiful wild primrose is now on the growing list of species the Endangered Species Act has saved from extinction,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This remarkably successful law has protected our country’s most vulnerable wild heritage for more than 40 years, and it’s more important today than ever.”

Today’s rule also reclassifies Eureka Dune grass from endangered to threatened status. Though some habitat threats have been abated, the dune grass remains vulnerable to global climate change and invasive species, so is still in need of protection.

The evening primrose grows to 2.5 feet tall and has white flowers that fade to pink as they mature. The flowers provide nectar for butterflies and bees in the desert sand dunes, and the number of primroses in the population fluctuates yearly with rainfall.

Eureka dune grass grows in clumps that trap sand at its base, forming mounds or hummocks. The grass is unique in that it can live for decades and reproduction is slow. Its seeds provide food for insects and small mammals in the desert.

Both plants were protected in 1978, and the Fish and Wildlife Service published a recovery plan in 1982 outlining actions to improve their status. Endangered Species Act protection spurred the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service to implement measures to protect the plants from off-highway vehicles. Other habitat protections for the plants will remain in place, including Death Valley National Park’s Wilderness and Backcountry Stewardship Plan, which will guide park management for the next 20 years.

“Anti-science, anti-wildlife Republicans in Congress are blue in the face from arguing that the Endangered Species Act doesn’t work, but the primrose is the 38th species to be recovered, making their arguments hollower than ever,” said Curry. “With adequate funding, even more species could reach recovery.”

Under the Obama administration, 23 species were determined to be fully recovered and delisted, more than any administration before.