Climate Change May Threaten Iconic Joshua Tree, Group Petitions To Protect It

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 5:41pm
Updated: Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 1:41pm
(Photo by Joshua Tree National Park - Flickr)
Visitors hike in Joshua Tree National Park.

WildEarth Guardians, an environmental protection group, is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Joshua tree as a threatened species.

The desert tree is a member of the agave family and can be found in western Arizona. Taylor Jones, with WildEarth Guardians, said climate change, increased wildfires and summer droughts jeopardize the desert tree’s future.

“It’s already hard to be a Joshua tree," Jones said. "They reproduce very slowly, lot of factors need to come together in just the right way, and climate change is wreaking havoc with that balance.”

Joshua trees, according to the National Park Service, need well-timed rains and cold winters to bloom and grow branches, so climate change affects their growth. Jones also said the trees should be preserved because of their iconic and striking features. “I remember looking out over this bizarre moonscape full of what looked like characters out of Dr. Suess, and that experience was so amazing I would not want to see that disappear," she said. "I want to preserve the potential for other people to have that experience."

The USFWS has 90 days to respond to the petition and either look into the issue or decide the Joshua tree doesn't need protection.

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