Government Spending

Nothing Left to Cut! California Spends $205,000 to Move $15 Shrub.


Moving a plant requires at least 17 workers.

Reeling from devastating budget cuts driven by austerity extremists, California in 2010 still managed to spend $205,075 to move a plant. The manzanita shrub was on a median strip near the Golden Gate Bridge, in the way of a highway project that was partially funded by the ARRA Stimulus. 

This is a true story. Here is the relevant passage from the Federal Register [pdf] in plain English, discovered by the eagle-eyed Thomas Cloud of CNS News

In October 2009, an ecologist identified a plant growing in a concrete- bound median strip along Doyle Drive in the Presidio as Arctostaphylos franciscana (Associated Press 2009, p. 1; Chasse et al. 2009 pp. 3, 4). The plant's location was directly in the footprint of a roadway improvement project designed to upgrade the seismic and structural integrity of the south access to the Golden Gate Bridge (California Department of Transportation et al. 2009, p. 1; Chasse et al. 2009, p. 10). The identification of the plant as A. franciscana has since been confirmed with 95 percent confidence based on morphological characteristics (Parker et al. 2007, p. 1; Chasse et al. 2009 pp. 3, 4; Vasey and Parker 2010, pp. 1, 5). Additional tests of ploidy level indicate that the plant is diploid, consistent with A. franciscana (Vasey and Parker 2010, p. 6). Preliminary results from molecular genetic data also increase the confidence that the plant belongs to A. franciscana, although genetic analysis shows evidence that the plant is a descendant of a distant hybridization event, a situation that is thought to be quite common in the genus (Vasey and Parker 2010, pp. 1, 7). Based on the best available scientific information we consider the species to be A. franciscana

Several agencies, including the Service, established an MOA and conservation plan for the species (see Previous Federal Actions section above). The conservation partners concluded it was not feasible to leave the plant undisturbed at its original site, due to impacts on public safety and to cultural resources related to a potential curtailment or redesign of the roadway improvement project (Chasse et al. 2009, pp. 9, 10).

The plant can be bought at a nursery for $15. Jalopnik's Benjamin Preston fills in the rest

The saga began in 2009, when Caltrans had begun clearing brush from the median in preparation for a road improvement project along Doyle Drive, the road leading up to the iconic span. Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp, a botanist and erstwhile director of habitat protection and restoration for Audubon Canyon Ranch, spotted the squat bush, igniting excitement amongst ecologists who thought the plant had been extinct — in the wild, anyway — since the last one was destroyed in 1942.

Botanists say that Franciscan manzanitas once spread from the San Francisco Bay's coastal area down to California's Central Coast, but by World War II, there was only one plant known to be left in the wild, and that situated in a not very wild place: A cemetery. When the cemetery was bulldozed to make way for tennis courts, that was that, or so the handful of people who actually cared thought.

Not long after Gluesenkamp's discovery, the Presidio Trust, Caltrans, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game all got involved in trying to figure out what to do with the forgotten plant. Then the Wild Equity Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society added their two cents, pushing for an Endangered Species Act listing, and the subsequent requirement that the shrub be moved someplace other than a nursery, where it would lose its "in the wild" status.

The translocation was achieved with both state and federal funds. The shrub is reported to be thriving in its new habitat. 

Courtesy of Luca Gattoni-Celli.

If you're keeping score at home, USC-Dornsife says 64 percent of voters support Gov. Jerry Brown's tax-increase initiative. 

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  1. What an absurd country this has become.

    1. No, it’s the same country. It’s just easier to play spot-the-graft.

      1. I think you’re on to something. Most people still aren’t paying attention though.

        1. The left doesn’t give a shit in this department. It’s all about which flag you wave.

    2. Green insanity is rife around here. My favorite example is from about 10 years ago, when a stop sign was knocked down in a Berkeley park. It was just a standard sign on one of those pierced-metal poles stuck into a lump of concrete. The paper reported that it would be replaced after the completion of the environmental impact statement. I’m not sure if anyone considered the potential environmental impact of an intersection missing a stop sign.

      1. Didn’t anyone ask what the sign felt? No one ever asks what the sign feels.

    3. What an absurd country this has become.

      To add to the absurdity.

      They are assuming that the shrub is the the last wild one but in the linked article they mention that genetic analysis suggests some hybridization.

      So how do they know that it wasn’t a farmed plant that wound up there? Fell of a truck, thrown out the window of a passing car etc.

    4. There you go, blaming bush again.

    1. nipple wins! the ‘Bush’ did it…

  2. So long as Carol Mgden has an appointed job, Sacramento is not serious about cutting waste:
    This woman was run out of office in Marin County in the primary. Rather than let this hag find a job, she has been appointed to one do-nothing committee by the Guvernator, canned and then appointed to another by Moonbeam.
    As long as she has a government job, there is waste left to cut.

  3. “A cemetery. When the cemetery was bulldozed to make way for tennis courts, that was that, or so the handful of people who actually cared thought.”

    Great, just what California needs, more haunted tennis courts.

    1. Do poltergeists prefer natural or artificial surfaces?


  4. DOOOMED I tells ya

    1. This.

      Also, fuck California.

  5. I will kill it. I will drive to the Bay of San Francisco and I will chop off its leaves and flowers like a vaccinated child’s arm.

    1. I’ll pay for your gas.

    2. Evil only prevails when good men stand by and do nothing. In that spirit, I feel obliged to offer you a coupon book to McDonald’s for this difficult journey.

      1. Don’t let that stop you. A pair of scissors, and a Venus flytrap bought at a nursery should do the trick. Go up to one of the employees at the Presidio Trust and threaten to kill the Venus flytrap if they don’t tell you the location. You must not be thwarted. To quote Homer Simpson, “It’s a flower.”

        1. well how many shrubs in the park have fences around them? and there are some clues here

          The post and cable fence
          protecting A. franciscana in the Presidio
          is approximately 30 ft (9.1 m) from the
          plant and is not constructed to
          completely exclude visitors.

          it is protected by
          a cable and post fence from public
          access and is monitored

          1. Good thinking. Monitored, eh? We’ll need an EMP for this mission. Or, well, I was going to take a hands off approach, but you may need a hacker to take over the security. Not exactly my field, but close enough.

            1. And by close enough I mean, if you don’t mind getting caught.

              Third option, furry costume. Disguised as a rare giant squirrel, they’ll be too awed to notice as plans to force a depopulation of the bay area to ensure your survival take root in their heads. While they are blinded by mad ambition, you could scale that fence.

            2. I’ll be watching Thief and The Conversation for research. That should suffice, right? Maybe Bio-Dome to get inside the mind of the enemy?

              1. Add to that, play the game Thief, not only will it teach you how to hide in shadows, use a blackjack upside a noggin, but the ultimate enemies were industry (steam punk vs fantasy setting) hating druids. It may prove to be valuable research.

            3. you may need a hacker to take over the security

              cue The Crystal Method

      2. That is the tamest, most protected shrub you’ll ever find in a wild pristine environment.

  6. lol, gotta just love tha t Government spending lol.

  7. The plant can be bought at a nursery for $15.

    Only in the place of “High Speed Rail” boondoggles could such arithmetic appear sound.

    This is Paul Krugman levels of stupid.

    1. If I was mean in mornings I feed my self off of road kill.

      1. rabbits and squirrels. If things real tough dos and cats. Then the little childs.

      2. Why do you hate children, Groovus?

  8. California, paving the way to a better future.

    I’m surprised that they didn’t halt the road improvement in order to preserve this wonderful and irreplaceable specimen.

    1. compromise! get it now for only 200 hundred grand.

  9. Fun fact: A. franciscana is also a species of brine shrimp, commonly known as Sea-Monkeys. My first published research was on them.

    1. Fun, but not as fun as this!

    2. Nothing on drosophila melanogaster? You should be ashamed! Ashamed, I say!

      1. Drosophila are the worst.

    3. Yes, heller, I can see you as Cartman as King of The Sea People. With the showtunes.

  10. Alt Text fail: It takes a village …

  11. Let’s hope some viral biologist re-discovers smallpox and decides to preserve its “in the wild” status by transplanting it into DC and Sacramento.

  12. This, is how the fedgov works, in micro-form.

    And the Teams want to make it worse.

    Pretty soon, you won’t be able to swing a dead cat without a permit.

  13. Of course Californians support Brown’s tax measures. The main thrust is basically “tax the rich” with punishment for any couple combining to exceed $250K/year. Everyone who makes less than that is a big supporter.

  14. $15???? Yeah, bullshit. Show me the nursery where a specimen of that size is only $15. The $15 plant will be a skinny twig that will require a good 30 years to reach that size.

    Now 200k? Yeah, that’s crazy. Transplanting a tree that size doesn’t cost that much. I’m guessing they are factoring street closures and whatnot that would have been spent for simple removal as well.

    1. You miss the point. The plant is not so rare that it can’t be bought cheaply is the mind blowing fact that makes all of this such a stupid waste of resource and time. Well, that and worrying about a plant. It dies. So what, another plant of a stronger line will take its place. There is not benefit to be gained compared to the cost that is imposed.

      1. There is not benefit to be gained compared to the cost that is imposed.

      2. But aren’t we all missing the point?

        California moved the endangered species to make way for development. Normally they’d just cancel the whole damn thing. I smell progress!

        (Also, the plant was supposed to be extinct in the wild, so it’s quite rare. The better argument is that we shouldn’t care because it’s a damn shrub.)

        1. What’s the difference between a “wild” specimen (which probably started as a seed dropped by someone driving along the highway) and a “tame” specimen that can be bought at a nursery and planted in the wild? How is one “rare” and the other not?

          I get your point though. It’s a damn shrub.

          1. CA could buy ten thousand plants, solicit volunteer environmentalists to plant them in their various national forests (make a fucking holiday out of it), mow down the one to make their road, and still cut the taxpayers a check for fifty grand. You save money and increase the number of these rare plants growing in the wild by a factor of ten thousand.

            1. You’re still missing the point.
              The point is, is that it would be a mortal sin to Gaia if you harm even one of her precious chillrun. Bulldozing over this one and replacing it with a thousand more would still not mitigate your heinous crime.

          2. What’s the difference between a “wild” specimen (which probably started as a seed dropped by someone driving along the highway) and a “tame” specimen that can be bought at a nursery and planted in the wild? How is one “rare” and the other not?”

            Biology 101. Chapter 13 “Genetics”.

      3. another plant of a stronger line will take its place

        Humans are the strongest line of plants. We destroy everything. U-S-A!! U-S-A!! U-S-A!! U-S-A!!

      4. I am quite aware of the point especially its disingenuous nature that compares a 30 year old plant to a 2 year old plant. Compare apples to apples, please.

        1. You’re still arguing, you ain’t gettin’ it.

          1. Yeah, i guess I don’t get the point of completely fallacious arguments.
            Now if you priced the transplantation of this shrub by subtracting what the price would have been to simply kill and remove the shrub to a full grown specimen, I would listen to that argument. However, the number isnt going to be 200k because you still have union workers. You still have to shut down the street, maybe for not as long but it’s still a significant cost

          2. So really you end up with crane costs and transportation costs, which you would have with any large transplantation, as being extra. You’re probably looking at 5k there. So in reality, they probably broke even for a specimen that size. And that’s assuming you could even acquire a specimen that size.

            1. Since these things are grown as landscape plants, I’m guessing there are thousands of them that size.

              And, in all probability, hundreds are killed every year by people renovating their gardens.

              1. These aren’t grown as landscape plants. Jalopnik has an update where he admits that he didn’t know what he was talking about. See my post below.

                1. That should be regularly grown. There might be a couple people somewhere growing them and you might be able to get them contract grown.

    2. “Now 200k? Yeah, that’s crazy. ”

      Not if you are the brother-in-law of the city council member who got the contract to move the weed.

  15. I could see some sense in this if it was proven to be genetically unique. If it’s DNA is indistinguishable from the farmed ones, then it is unnecessary to save it.

    1. Can you see some sense in the 12 people standing around doing nothing?

  16. Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say `nee’ at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress at this period in history.running down the middle.

  17. There’s only 1? In the entire world? Does this plant make seeds?

    1. Get the seeds
    2. Plant the seeds
    3. Water it or something
    4. New plants! You should have roughly the same amount of plants as you had seeds, assuming they didn’t get eaten.

    1. 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. And lots of it. Undiluted.

    2. Manzanita seeds are notoriously hard to germinate and it would take decades to get to that size.

      1. Now you’re just trolling. The point you are making is insidiously pedantic.

      2. If you do reply, you need to explain where you get the info that this shrub takes thirty years to reach maturation. Could not find it for that species, but another close relative manzanita native to the Santa Cruz Mountains takes less than a decade.

        1. I’m a landscape architect that has been working in CA for decades. I crane trees in all the time. I plant manzanitas regularly. There are a couple of manzanitas that get regularly planted in gardens that are relatively fast growing. This is because they can tolerate the extra water in that situation. That extra water will kill most manzanitas. Although there are specialty nurseries that are making the less garden friendly varieties available. Typically, manzanitas grow much more slowly, taking decades to reach full size. This is especially true in a non-irrigated setting. On top of that, the vitality of the tree is different depending on the phenotypical expression brought about by a high water or low water environment.

  18. If only one plant is saved…

  19. Obviously, Tim Cavanaugh and his merry band of libertard enforcers don’t understand the plight of Holy Terra. Mankind must be eviscerated in order that the Earth heal itself, and this is one step towards ultimate salvation.

    Don’t you know that’s why the Founders fought the Revolutionary War?

  20. Hell, I’d do it for an even $100K. Firm fixed price, too.

  21. I’ll just leave this here…

  22. Years ago when I-49 was extended through Alexandria a big fuss was made over the world’s largest japanese yew tree which was in the planned path of the highway. For a couple of weeks there were battles back and forth about saving/not saving the tree, moving/not moving the path of the highway. Then, mysteriously, the tree died. Someone went in the middle of the night and poisoned the fucking thing. Voila, no more controversy.

    1. Not building a highway, or increasing the cost of building, or spending a single minute arguing about whether it’s worth not building the highway or increasing the cost of building it because a fucking tree or bush is in the way is something only a government employee could do without being told to eat shit and fuck off before being fired swiftly for wasting everybody’s time and resources.

    2. I’m seeing a protection against eminent domain. Are you seeing it?

  23. So if the plant is extint *IN THE WILD* and yet can be bought cheap at a nursery, why doesn’t CA spend 200k to buy 10,000 of them and plant them all over San Francisco?

    I mean, for Christ’s sale, its a native plant – they’ll do just fine on their own.

    1. You don’t understand. Uplifters don’t want anything to do fine on its own.

  24. I wish Robert Heinlein were still around to tweet the Crazy Years.

  25. Somebody who’s near California, go buy a bunch of these plants at a nursery, and then secretly plant them in random places in parks and forest. After a few years someone will stumble across them, and ta-dah, they’re not extinct in the wild anymore.

  26. Here in FL, over in Longwood, there’s a whole park built around one tree. Or rather there was. There was a 3,500-year old cypress tree called The Senator, but a few months ago some dumbass crawled inside the hollowed base of the trunk to smoke meth, and she set the tree on fire.

    1. That’s horrible. Kind of like setting Harold/Bob/Herbert on fire in Fallout 3.

  27. When’s CA wildfire season starting up again? Always good for panic-tainment.

  28. Shocking. The only job I’ve ever had tied to government was when I was a kid. I worked at an electric company responsible for installing street lights. Not only was the government official in our pocket, he paid us over time to drive around and spot burnt out bulbs whenever he needed to bleed his budget. Any money he had left over at the end of a quarter had to be spent or he wouldn’t get the same amount next time around. No free market company in the world would operate that way. Classic example of Milton Friedman’s four ways to spend money principal. Even at 18 I knew this was wrong. The plus side is this is one of the early revelations that lead me to becoming a Conservative.

  29. So I’ve been doing some research on the actual availability of this species. I can’t find it anywhere at any price. None of the nurserymen that I have talked to have any idea where they could get this species and that includes wholesale plant brokers. Even the native plant nurseries I regularly deal with don’t have this species. The claim that it is a widely cultivated species is total bullshit that has been retracted in an update in the linked post. Apparently Jalopnik failed to understand that cogenetors are not interchangeable.

    1. Apparently this bride did a better search than you could.…..nita-trees

      Quote: “I have been searching for a while now and can’t decide where to purchase my manzanita trees from. They are EVERYWHERE!”

  30. To paraphrase Monty Python: A shubbery – a nice one

  31. It’s not the same plant that you buy at the nursery- but don’t let something as inconsequential as genetics get in the way of your outrage. Please pay no mind to the “Beware of the leopard *cough* HOUSECAT *cough*” sign at the planning office.

    1. Please explain to me why I should give a fuck about this plant species?

      I understand why species diversity matters in bananas, nitrogen fixing bacteria, and humans. I don’t get why this specific manzanita species matters, unless this is just a stunt in some larger point about “leave no species behind”. If that is the case, then kindly fuck yourself and the horse you rode in on.

    2. How does it differ? Just curious how you are an expert on the genetic drift of Manzanita shrubs. Who is to say some fool didn’t plant this one from a nursret 15 years ago?

  32. Ahhh California. Has anybody heard what is going on with the High Speed Rail project? A Better Way to San Jose. My homeboy Warren G has…

  33. Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game all got involved in trying to figure out what to do with the forgotten plant. Then the Wild Equity Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society added their two cents, pushing for an Endangered Species Act listing, and the subsequent requirement that the shrub be moved someplace other than a nursery, where it would lose its “in the wild” status.

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