For Immediate Release, March 20, 2023
Maria Jesus, (760) 914-4932, InyoRockDaisy@gmail.com
Rare Daisy Imperiled by Gold Mining Moves Closer to Federal Protection
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the rare Inyo rock daisy may require federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, kicking off a year-long review of threats to the plant.
The Center for Biological Diversity, California Native Plant Society and a botanist who studies the daisy formally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in February 2022 to protect the flowers. In August 2022 the California Fish and Game Commission voted to temporarily protect the Inyo rock daisy under the California Endangered Species Act while the state determines if permanent protections are warranted.
“These vibrant daisies have only one home, a small swath of the Mojave Desert that’s threatened by mining,” said botanist Maria Jesus, the petition’s primary author. “These findings are a step in the right direction to ensure the continued survival of this unique species.”
The Inyo rock daisy is a rare wildflower found only at the highest elevations of the southern Inyo Mountains, between the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley National Park in California. These wildflowers live on ancient carbonate bedrock that possibly holds submicroscopic gold, and now a large-scale gold mining project is proposed in one of the few places the rock daisy occurs, Conglomerate Mesa.
In 2019 a Canadian mining company claimed to have found evidence of a large gold deposit in the area. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is reviewing the company’s proposal to conduct exploration activities in the plant’s habitat; if commercially viable quantities of gold are found, the area could be developed into a large open-pit mine, which would permanently destroy the Inyo rock daisy’s prime habitat.
“These wildflowers absolutely deserve this in-depth look by the Fish and Wildlife Service before industrial-scale gold mining and other threats wipe them off the map,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist at the Center. “Federal protections are crucial so these special daisies can avoid the onslaught of open-pit mining, which would destroy their primary home.”
Most of the wildflower’s range is designated as part of the National Conservation Lands system, but these conservation lands remain open for commercial extraction under the antiquated 1872 Mining Law. They include the Cerro Gordo and Conglomerate Mesa, which the Bureau of Land Management has designated as areas of critical environmental concern to protect numerous sensitive plant species, Joshua tree woodlands and other natural resources.
“More native plant species are at risk of extinction in California than any other state in the U.S.,” said CNPS Conservation Program Director Nick Jensen, referencing a recently published NatureServe report on biodiversity in the United States. “With the Inyo rock daisy, we have a case where we can see the potential extinction coming but actually having a chance to stop it.”
Blooming during the heat of the summer when other desert plants have gone dormant, the bright yellow flowers of the Inyo rock daisy attract many insect visitors. These pollinators are a critical part of the wildflower’s life cycle since pollen from distant flowers is needed for reproduction.
In addition to loss of habitat from an open-pit mine, mining operations would likely harm plant reproduction by fragmenting habitat and driving away pollinators. The Inyo rock daisy is also threatened by invasive plant species, climate change and harmful genetic consequences because of its small population size.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The California Native Plant Society is a statewide non-profit organization working to advance the conservation, understanding and appreciation of California native plants and habitats through science, education, horticulture and advocacy. CNPS has more than 12,000 members and 36 chapters promoting its mission across California and Baja, California. Learn more at cnps.org.