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Critical habitat declared in Santa Barbara County for Vandenberg monkeyflower

John Chestnut/CNPS San Luis Obispo Chapter

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is designating 5,755 acres in Santa Barbara County as critical habitat for the Vandenberg monkeyflower. It's doing so under the Endangered Species Act.

The plant is found only within a series of low, flat-topped hills known as the Burton Mesa between the Purisima Hills to the north and the Santa Ynez River to the south.

Fish and Wildlife says the expansion of non-native plants, as well as habitat destruction are making it difficult for the species to survive.

The small annual herb grows up to 10 inches tall, and produces one to several yellow flowers on purple-tinted stems.

Of the approximately 5,755 acres designated as critical habitat, 4,674 acres are on state lands within the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve and La Purisima Mission State Historical Park. The remaining areas designated as critical habitat consist of 820 acres on private lands, 38 acres on local agency lands, and 223 acres on Department of Justice lands.

The Vandenberg monkeyflower was first listed as federally endangered a year ago. Designating critical habitat helps to raise awareness, according to Fish and Wildlife. It does not affect land ownership nor establish a refuge, and has no impact on private landowners.