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.