PORTLAND, Oregon – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is announcing the finalized listing of sand dune phacelia as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also designated 181 acres of critical habitat and completed a 4(d) rule for the coastal plant.
“The ESA provides a critical safety net for species such as sand dune phacelia,” said Kessina Lee, State Supervisor for the Service’s Oregon office. “Endangered species recovery is complex and difficult work, often requiring substantial time and resources. We are committed to working with partners to tackle challenges together so we can conserve and ultimately recover this plant and its habitat.”
Sand dune phacelia, also called silvery phacelia, is endemic to southern Oregon and northern California. Today, 25 naturally occurring populations exist along 100 miles of coastline from Bandon, Oregon south to Crescent City, California.
Where found, sand dune phacelia habitat quality is often poor and further encroachment of such as European beachgrass and gorse threatens remaining populations. Climate change is expected to cause sea level rise and exacerbate the spread of invasive species, resulting in further habitat loss.
Sand dune phacelia relies on active management and the continuous removal of invasive species to survive. Recovery will depend on furthering partnerships with a variety of entities and the voluntary cooperation of non-federal landowners. Together, we can improve our understanding of this species and restore and protect the habitats upon which this and other native coastal species depend.
Efforts to reintroduce this plant, augment existing locations, and control invasive species are underway at several sites in Oregon and California on private, state, and federal lands. The Service supports many of these efforts through its Coastal Program and other programs that restore habitats and implement other actions to bolster populations of rare species.
The listing rule is based on the best available science and goes into effect September 21, 2023. The rule, comments, and informational materials the Service received, as well as supporting documentation used in preparing the rule, are available for public inspection in the docket on http://www.regulations.gov; search for Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2021–0070.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the ESA, the most significant piece of endangered species legislation and one of the world’s most important conservation laws. The ESA provides the protection of ecosystems, the conservation of endangered and threatened species, and the enforcement of all treaties related to wildlife preservation. The ESA has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
Frequently Asked Questions
What action is being taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
Based on a review of the best available science, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is announcing the finalized rule finalizing to list sand dune phacelia (Phacelia argentea), a coastal dune plant endemic to Oregon and northern California, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service is also finalizing critical habitat and a special rule under section 4(d) of the ESA to provide for the conservation needs of the species.
What is sand dune phacelia?
Sand dune phacelia, also known as silvery phacelia, is an evergreen, herbaceous, flowering perennial in the forget-me-not (Boraginaceae) plant family. It blooms in late April and May through August, relying primarily on bees for its pollination.
Where is sand dune phacelia found?
Sand dune phacelia can be found in coastal dune habitat along the southern Oregon and northern California coast at low elevations ranging from approximately 10 to 40 feet. This plant is known to occur from about five miles north of Bandon, Oregon, to Crescent City, California, a distance that spans approximately 100 miles of coastline. Whether the species was ever present or abundant elsewhere is unknown. Other than an historic report from Clatsop County, Oregon in 1933, and an unconfirmed report from Mendocino County in California, the species is only known from Coos and Curry counties in Oregon, and Del Norte County in California.
What are the main threats to the species?
There are currently only 25 naturally occurring populations of sand dune phacelia. Seventeen of these are in poor condition and 12 of the sites contain fewer than 25 individual plants. Small populations are likely to disappear in the future without implementation of conservation measures.
The most significant threat to remaining populations is habitat loss due to the encroachment of invasive species. Sand dune phacelia requires open sand dune habitat that provides sufficient space and light for seedlings to establish and grow. Thus, this plant is management-dependent, relying on active and continuous removal of invasive species such as European beachgrass and gorse. Climate change is expected to cause sea level rise and exacerbate the spread of invasive species, which would result in additional habitat loss.
Are there any conservation efforts focused on sand dune phacelia?
Conservation measures to preserve or enhance sand dune phacelia populations are currently underway at several sites in Oregon and California on private, state, and federal lands. These actions include habitat restoration through removal of invasive species, population augmentation and population reintroduction.
Since sand dune phacelia is a management-dependent species, restoration of dune habitat through ongoing control of invasive species is essential to the continuing viability of sand dune phacelia rangewide.
How does sand dune phacelia benefit from an ESA listing?
Species protected under the ESA benefit from the implementation of recovery actions and federal protection from harmful practices on public lands. Listing also generates public awareness and conservation by federal, state, tribal and local agencies as well as private organizations and individuals. The ESA encourages cooperation with the states and other partners to conserve listed species.
After a species is listed, the Service develops and implements a recovery plan to conserve the species. Recovery plans outline actions that are needed to improve the species’ status such that it no longer requires protection under the ESA. The Service creates and carries out these plans in partnership with species experts; other federal, state, and local agencies; Tribes; non-governmental organizations; academia; and other stakeholders. Recovery plans also establish a framework for recovery partners to coordinate their recovery efforts and provide estimates of the cost of implementing recovery tasks. Examples of typical recovery actions include habitat protection, habitat restoration (e.g., removal of invasive plants), research, captive propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education.
Under the ESA, federal agencies must ensure that actions they approve, fund, or carry out do not jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or destroy its critical habitat. In addition, we finalized a 4(d) rule for the sand dune phacelia to provide for the conservation needs of the species.
How does the 4(d) rule benefit the plant?
The 4(d) rule provides for the conservation of the sand dune phacelia by prohibiting the removal, cutting, digging up, damaging, or destroying the species on non-federal lands in knowing violation of any state law or regulation.
What is critical habitat and where is it designated?
Critical habitat is defined by the ESA as the geographic areas occupied at the time a species is listed that contain the physical or biological features essential to the species’ conservation. Critical habitat may also include areas outside the geographic area the species occupied when listed that are essential for conserving the species. The protections provided by critical habitat apply solely to the actions of federal agencies; critical habitat has no regulatory effect on private landowners or other public agencies. For more information on critical habitat: https://www.fws.gov/sites/default/files/documents/critical-habitat-fact-sheet.pdf
Critical habitat for sand dune phacelia was designated for 181 acres on 13 units, 9 in Oregon and 4 in California, spread across the range of the plant. A breakdown of land ownership and critical habitat maps are available online at http://www.regulations.gov; search for Docket No. FWS–R1–ES–2021–0070.