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Letters to the Editor: Of course Joshua trees are threatened and deserve protection

A Joshua tree at Joshua Tree National Park in 2020
Climate change is altering the small habitable zone of California’s Joshua trees. Above, a tree at Joshua Tree National Park in 2020.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: The California Fish and Game Commission holds the very fate of the western Joshua tree species in its hands, as it will soon decide whether to protect it under the state’s Endangered Species Act. Articles in The Times have described the ever-increasing threats these trees face, chiefly the climate-change-driven extended periods of extreme heat and drought that are interrupting its reproduction cycle, and mass clearing by builders and Big Solar.

Yet state biologists have issued a questionable report saying the tree is not threatened and recommending that it should not be protected as an endangered species, ignoring the strong scientific evidence that its habitable zone is shrinking and its reproduction is dwindling.

The solar industry can locate solar panels a great many places, but the western Joshua tree can only exist in a very limited elevation range. We can have a robust solar industry while leaving the tree’s habitat alone. As well, the construction industry through better planning can more effectively use our desert lands without mowing down large fields of mature western Joshua trees to build another strip mall.

The western Joshua tree deserves a fighting chance. I urge all concerned citizens to contact the Fish and Game Commission and express support for protecting our beloved Joshua tree under the California Endangered Species Act.

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Lisa M. LaFlame, Brea

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To the editor: Our national park system is an amazing treasure. As a young boy, I visited many parks with my parents and was at awe seeing nature’s wondrous beauty. I imagine millions of people have had similar experiences.

My wife and I took our kids to enjoy those wonders as they grew up. Soon our grandkids will start visiting the parks with their parents and hopefully their grandparents as well.

It would be a shame if any part of this glorious park system disappears. It would be worse if we saw that coming and did nothing to prevent it. This seems to be the case with Joshua Tree National Park.

There is no doubt climate change is a danger to this habitat and others. Scientists warn that 90% of Joshua trees could disappear by the end of this century without any climate action. We can’t let this happen. We must act now.

Jonathan Light, Laguna Niguel

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To the editor: State biologists make the case that because there is an abundance of Joshua trees right now, they do not merit threatened status. The biologists’ attitude is similar to what fishermen in the Caribbean thought while going after large aggregations of a species of grouper.

They said that since there were several aggregations of grouper, the fish must be very abundant. The species came close to being wiped out by overfishing as a result, putting many fishermen out of work.

The problem isn’t just with Joshua trees. Bighorn sheep in the Anza-Borrego desert will be in a similar position as climate change takes hold. They are already endangered, and state biologists seem reluctant to do anything that will stabilize the sheep population for the future.

With both bighorn sheep and Joshua trees, we can’t just give up and do nothing. Humans caused climate change, and it is our responsibility to help those iconic species survive, no matter the cost.

Phillip Roullard, San Diego

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