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Save the Joshua Tree from Extinction

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently declined to list the Joshua Tree under the federal Endangered Species Act, leaving the fate of potential protection measures in question. Take action for this iconic species!

The Joshua Tree, an iconic symbol of the American Southwest, is facing extinction. Its twisted, spiky branches and towering height of up to 40 feet make it a unique and beloved tree, but it is also one of the most threatened species in the United States.

Despite scientists and environmental groups warning of the species' decline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently declined to list Joshua trees under the federal Endangered Species Act1. This decision leaves the fate of potential protection measures for the spindly plant with newly proposed state legislation.

The western Joshua tree faces a host of threats, primarily from climate change and development. Scientists warn that the tree’s suitable habitat is expected to decline substantially by 2100 due to climate change, particularly in the southern portions of its range2.

The primary threat facing the Joshua Tree is climate change3. The Mojave Desert is experiencing some of the most extreme effects of climate change, including higher temperatures and reduced precipitation4. This is having a direct impact on the Joshua Tree, which is struggling to survive in these changing conditions. Wildfires, which are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, are also a significant threat to the species5.

Another major threat to the Joshua Tree is habitat loss6. As human populations continue to expand in the region, more and more of the desert is being developed for housing, agriculture, and other purposes. This is reducing the amount of habitat available for the Joshua Tree, and making it harder for the species to survive.

The spread of non-native species is also a significant threat to the Joshua Tree. Non-native species such as cheatgrass and tamarisk are spreading rapidly throughout the Mojave Desert, crowding out native plant species and making it harder for the Joshua Tree to compete for resources7.

The Joshua Tree was first described by botanist William Trelease in 1895, who noted its unusual shape and the fact that it only grew in specific areas of the southwest8. Today, the species is found primarily in the Mojave Desert, which spans parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah.

The Joshua Tree has a long and fascinating history in the United States. It is named after the biblical figure Joshua, who is said to have raised his arms to the sky in prayer. The tree has been an important symbol for many indigenous cultures in the region, who have used it for medicinal purposes and as a source of food9.

Despite its cultural and ecological significance, the Joshua Tree has declined by as much as 47% over the past century10. If current trends continue, the Joshua tree may not be able to survive in its namesake park by the end of this century2.

We can do something to save this iconic species. Sign our petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list Joshua trees under the federal Endangered Species Act. By listing the Joshua Tree as an endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can provide the Joshua Tree with the protection it needs to recover and thrive.

Join us in the fight to save the Joshua Tree from extinction. Sign our petition today.

More on this issue:

  1. Jane Hendron, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (8 March 2023), "Second review finds Joshua trees do not require protection under the Endangered Species Act."
  2. Erin Rode, Desert Sun (12 October 2022), "Decision on listing western Joshua tree as 'threatened' species pushed to February."
  3. Philip Kiefer, National Geographic (15 October 2018), "Iconic Joshua trees may disappear—but scientists are fighting back."
  4. Iowa State University (4 February 2021), "As climate change cranks up the heat in the Mojave Desert, not all species are equally affected."
  5. Jared Gilmour, The Sacramento Bee (23 July 2019), "Goodbye, Joshua trees? Wildfires, heat may doom them at California park, study finds."
  6. Usha Lee McFarling, Smithsonian Magazine (November 2021), "What Does the Future Hold for the Joshua Tree."
  7. National Park Service (15 September 2015), "Nonnative Species."
  8. Siera Nystrom, Natural History Journal (25 February 2018), "Joshua Tree Woodlands: A Tale of Sloths, Moths and the Trees that Need Them."
  9. The National Wildlife Federation, "Joshua Tree."
  10. Lynn C. Sweet, Tyler Green, James G. C. Heintz, Neil Frakes, Nicolas Graver, Jeff S. Rangitsch, Jane E. Rodgers, Scott Heacox, Cameron W. Barrows, Ecosphere (3 June 2019), "Congruence between future distribution models and empirical data for an iconic species at Joshua Tree National Park."
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The Petition:

To the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

We are writing to you today to express our profound concern and disappointment regarding your recent decision to decline the species protection of the Joshua Tree under the Endangered Species Act. The Joshua Tree is not just an iconic symbol of the American Southwest, but a vital component of our ecosystem that deserves protection.

As you know, the Joshua Tree has faced significant threats over the years, including climate change, habitat loss, and vandalism. In fact, the species has already experienced a decline of nearly 30% over the past century, and experts predict that its population will continue to decline rapidly without intervention.

Despite these facts, your agency has chosen to decline the species protection, a decision that will only accelerate the decline of this important species. We urge you to reconsider your decision and take immediate action to protect the Joshua Tree.

The decline of the Joshua Tree is not just an ecological issue, but a social and economic one as well. The Joshua Tree National Park is a major tourist attraction, bringing millions of visitors and millions of dollars to local economies each year. Protecting the Joshua Tree is not only essential for preserving our natural heritage, but also for sustaining local economies.

Moreover, declining protection for the Joshua Tree sends a dangerous message about our priorities as a society. If we fail to protect this species, what message are we sending to future generations? That we were willing to let an iconic species die out without lifting a finger to save it?

We urge you to reverse your decision and grant the Joshua Tree the protection it deserves. Protecting the Joshua Tree is not only essential for the health of our ecosystem, but also for the future of our planet and the well-being of our communities. We implore you to take swift and decisive action to ensure the survival of this iconic species.


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