The San Fernando Valley Spineflower (Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina), an annual member of the Buckwheat family (Polygonaceae) was presumed to be extinct by CNPS and botanists. That is until June of 1999 when botanist Rick Reifner found it at a previously unreported locale on Laskey Mesa in the Simi Hills of Ventura County, just north of Calabasas. It has also bee found at several locations on Newhall Ranch near Valencia/Castaic just east of the Ventura County line on the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains. This variety of spineflower was thought to be extinct, having not been seen since 1929 until it was rediscovered accidentally on the Ahmanson Ranch development site in southeastern Ventura County
The petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to list the San Fernando Valley Spineflower (Chorizanthe parryi var. fernandina) as an endangered species was considered at the Commission’s June 2000 meeting in Truckee. The petition was commissioned by the City of Calabasas and prepared by LSA Associates, an environmental consulting firm. David Magney represented CNPS to express support for making the plant an endangered species. The Commission voted to make it a candidate for listing, which represents a one-year review period to gather information on the plant before a decision is made on whether or not to list it. Candidate status under the California Endangered Species Act gives the plant full protection under the law, as if it were listed. The San Fernando Valley Spineflower was discovered on Laskey Mesa near Calabasas in the very southeastern corner of Ventura County, on the Ahmanson Ranch development site. The Ahmanson Ranch developers (a subsidiary of Washington Mutual Bank) have plans to develop the site where this annual plant lives. The San Fernando Valley Spineflower has not been seen previously for 60 years. Repeated attempts at gain access to Ahmanson Ranch and Newhall Ranch to see the plant and its environs have been unsuccessful. We will keep trying, but Washington Mutual is not letting anyone but a few agency biologists access to their property, and Newhall isn’t letting anyone on there property except consultants sworn to absolute secrecy.
The California Fish and Game Commission finally formally voted to list the San Fernando Valley Spineflower as an endangered species. The Commission did this at their hearing in Santa Barbara on 23 August 2001, after a 1-year review while the Spineflower was a candidate. David Magney testified before the Commission on behalf of CNPS to urge them to list this plant as endangered. Washington Mutual Bank, who owns Ahmanson Ranch, wishes to proceed with development plans, which would destroy at least 10 percent of the population found on Laskey Mesa immediately north of Calabasas. Assemblywoman Fran Pavely held an Assembly hearing in Woodland Hills on 25 August 2001on this project, at which I was requested to testify on the potential impacts of development on the San Fernando Valley Spineflower. About 500 people attended the hearing, nearly all of which were opposed to the development, which is also home to the California Red-legged Frog, also a listed species. The Ahmanson Ranch development, which will be the subject of a focused supplemental EIR due out in late September, is said to have many negative impacts to the environment, including impacts on endangered species, rare grasslands, hundreds of mature oak trees, and a significant increase in traffic on US101 (which already has a 3-hour daily stop-and-go traffic problem). Many people have divested themselves of all investments in Washington Mutual Bank in protest of this project, including Channel Islands Chapter members.