"This is the Only Place in the World it Grows"

(Note: This superb article needs only one quote to go with it, to help explain why there's so much 'critical habitat' listing going on seemingly everywhere for seemingly every kind of flora/fauna: "When we make critical
habitat designations, we just designate everything as critical, without an analysis of how much habitat an evolutionary significant unit needs." - Donna Darm, the acting NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) Regional
Administrator for the Northwest, in a 1998 intra-agency memorandum.)

March 14, 2003

By Don Fife

San Bernardino National Forest, California - Mark Twain defined a liar in the nineteenth century as "a miner with a hole in the ground." As we know, there has been many a gold mine promoter who fits that description. However, if Twain were living today he would mostly likely define a liar as a "federal bureaucrat with an allegedly endangered species!"

In the late 1970s I applied for a mining permit on one acre of ultra-high-grade calcite limestone on the north slope of the San Bernardino Mountains south of Lucerne Valley.

District Ranger Jerry Mitchell and two other San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) employees, Randy Scott (now with San Bernardino County planning) and US Forest Service geologist Jack Joyce (now retired) accompanied him to our meeting at the location.

Mining contractor Ray Descher and geologist A.R. Brown -- who mapped the area with Tom Dibblee for the U.S. Geological Survey -- were also present.

The location was on a fire break where the recent (1976) Coyote Flat wildland fire had been contained.

Ranger Mitchell couldn't find anything wrong with my mining/reclamation plan, but he kept scanning the ground with his eyes.

Suddenly he shouted, "Uh-Oooooh! You have a problem. You have Eriogonium ovalifolium vineum! And this is the only place in the world where it grows!"

Randy Scott and Jack Joyce both put their hands over their mouths and walked away, apparently to keep from laughing in their boss's face.

Mr. Brown said to Ranger Mitchell, "How do you know this is the only place in the world that this plant grows? You told me on the way up here you had never been to this place."

Mitchell replied, "Er, er, uh, well, I mean they only grow on limestone on the north slope of the San Bernardino Mountains."

I took out my camera and asked Ranger Mitchell to spell out the name of the plant that appeared to be thriving in the firebreak and areas recently burned in the Coyote Flat fire.

I wrote the name on a business card, put it on the ground before the plant and took several photos -- some with Ranger Mitchell in the background.

I said, "Jerry, what can I do to satisfy the Big Bear Ranger District, so that I can mine?"

He replied, "I have an ol' buddy who can do a plant survey for you."

I asked for this biologist's name and he gave me the name, address, and phone number of Tim Krantz, a former Forest Service biologist who was currently a consulting botanist in Big Bear Lake.

That evening I went back to my office and looked up this allegedly rare plant in Dr. Edmund Yeager's classic 1940 book, "Desert Wildflowers."

This plant turned out to be an invader species that loves 'disturbed open space' for habitat expansion. No wonder it was thriving in the fire breaks and wildland fire area!

Laymen call these invader plants -- weeds. They are Nature's first step in recovering climax vegetation.

However, even in 1940 Dr. Yaeger reported this oval leaf buckwheat as occurring from the Sierra Nevada and White-Inyo Mountains of east central California to the mountains of southern California -- and as far east as the Arizona/New Mexico border.

The current scientific literature identifies this same plant, including the variety 'vineum' as occurring up and down the Pacific, Great Basin, and Rocky Mountain flyways from inside Canada, through the United States and into Mexico.

The San Bernardino National Forest botanists claim this plant and 4 others are limestone or carbonate endemic and form 'genetically isolated islands' in our forest.

As most scientists and laymen know, birds eat buckwheat and other seeds and genetically intermix the entire plant gene pool.

The SBNF and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have lost all credibility -- they ignore any factual information and rely only on the flawed listing package that the United States Forest Service (USFS) sent to USFWS in 1993 -- to justify the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing.

It is unsigned, but USFS botanist Maile Neele told me she was the principal author.

This report is nothing more than junk science.

There is not a single published peer-reviewed professional scientific paper supporting any of these 5 plants as carbonate or limestone endemic, genetically unique, or threatened by mining.

Ms. Neele recently completed her Ph.D., apparently to prove the USFS/USFWS allegations that these plants grow only on carbonate rock and are genetically unique to the SBNF. Her Ph.D. thesis was completed at the University of California at Riverside about a year ago.

So, now we should all have the proof that the plants are endangered and unique to our area, right? Oh, no, no, no!

The thesis has been sealed.

The public cannot get a copy.

However, I do have a copy, and I don't see a thing in it that supports the listing of these plants.

Its main theme, in my opinion, is a diatribe against mining.

This is the radical green agenda of the SBNF, which will stoop to anything to destroy our local mining industry.

How convenient -- to find a plant that grows "only" on limestone.

More than several million dollars of taxpayers money have been spent by the USFS, USFWS and local governments and industry to "protect" these weeds.

The USFS looks almost exclusively at the 30,000 acres of the SBNF that is underlain by carbonate rock or limestone -- and ignores the other 790,000 acres that is mostly granite or rock derived from granite.

Or -- when they do look and find one of these listed weeds -- they have denoted the granite as being limestone.

Remember, back a few paragraphs in this article, Ranger Mitchell's "ol' buddy," Tim Krantz?

Well, the mine operator wound up paying $14,000 to Michael Brandon and Associates for a plant survey.

It is my understanding that Mr. Krantz was paid $10,000 for a dispensation so we could mine.

OMYA, Inc., an international white minerals company, hired botanists from Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens several years ago to grow some of the plants.

They grew them in weathered limestone, decomposed granite, sandstone, and potting mix.

They would not grow on clayey soils.

The roots rot if the soil doesn't drain.

It is apparent that they require only a well-drained soil.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens botanists planted the now-listed endangered oval leaf buckwheat on a new road-cut in decomposed granite -- along with Parish's Daisy, another ESA listed limestone endemic plant.

For more than 10 years these seedlings have thrived and spread into the surrounding area.

The green bureaucratic agenda is in control of the land. The SBNF 30,000-acre "Critical Habitat" and the 44,575-acre "Weed Sanctuary" are arbitrary and capricious abuses of the ESA to destroy a viable and important mining community and most of the local job base.

Lucerne Valley, California


Fax: 714-731-3745


Chuck Cushman 360-687-3087 Fax: 360-687-2973 ccushman@landrights.org


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