The government spent at least $205,075 in 2010 to â€œtranslocateâ€ a single bush in San Francisco that stood in the path of a $1.045-billion highway-renovation project that was partially funded by the economic stimulus legislation President Barack Obama signed in 2009.
â€œIn October 2009, an ecologist identified a plant growing in a concrete-bound median strip along Doyle Drive in the Presidio as Arctostaphylos franciscana,â€ the U.S. Department of Interior reported in the Aug. 10, 2010 edition of the Federal Register. â€œThe plantâ€™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.
â€œThe translocation of the Arctostaphylos franciscana plant to an active native plant management area of the Presidio was accomplished, apparently successfully and according to plan, on January 23, 2010,â€ the Interior Department reported.
The bushâ€”a Franciscan manzanitaâ€”was a specimen of a commercially cultivated species of shrub that can be purchased from nurseries for as little as $15.98 per plant. The particular plant in question, however, was discovered in the midst of the City of San Francisco, in the median strip of a highway, and was deemed to be the last example of the species in the â€œwild.â€
Prior to the discovery of this â€œwildâ€ Franciscan manzanita, the plant had been considered extinct for as long as 62 years–extinct, that is, outside of peopleâ€™s yards and botanical gardens. …
While the MOA did not detail all the costs for moving the bush, it did state that in addition to funding removal and transportation of the Franciscan manzanita, Caltrans agreed to transfer $79,470 to the Presidio Trust â€œto fund the establishment, nurturing, and monitoring of the Mother Plant in its new location for a period not to exceed ten (10) years following relocation and two (2) years for salvaged rooted layers and cuttings according to the activities outlined in the Conservation Plan.â€
Furthermore, Presidio Parkway Project spokesperson Molly Graham told CNSNews.com that the â€œhard removalâ€â€”n.b. actually digging up the plant, putting it on a truck, driving it somewhere else and replanting it–cost $100,000.
The MOA also stated that Caltrans agreed to â€œTransfer $25,605.00 to the Trust to fund the costs of reporting requirements of the initial 10-year period as outlined in the Conservation Plan.â€
The $100,000 to pay for the â€œhard removal,â€ the $79,470 to pay for the â€œestablishment, nurturing and monitoringâ€ of the plant for a decade after its â€œhard removal,â€ and the $25,605 to cover the â€œreporting requirementsâ€ for the decade after the â€œhard removal,â€ equaled a total cost of $205,075 for â€œtranslocatingâ€ this manzanita bush.
But those were not the only costs incurred by taxpayers on behalf of the bush. According to the MOA, other costs included:
–â€œContract for and provide funding not to exceed $7,025.00 for initial genetic or chromosomal testing of the Mother Plant by a qualified expert to be selected at Caltransâ€™ sole discretion.â€ (MOA – Fran Man – 2009.pdf)
–â€œContract for and fund the input, guidance, and advice of a qualified Manzanita expert on an as-needed basis to support the tending of the Mother Plant for a period not to exceed five (5) years, provided that said expert selection, retention and replacement at any point after hiring rests in the sole discretion of Caltrans.â€
â€œProvide funding not to exceed $5,000.00 to each of 3 botanical gardens (Strybing, UC, and Tilden) to nurture salvaged rooted layers and to monitor and report findings as outlined in the Conservation Plan.â€
–â€œProvide funding not to exceed $1,500.00 for the long-term seed storage of 300 seeds collected around the Mother Plant in November 2009 as outlined in the Conservation Plan.â€
The plant is now protected by a fence and its location is kept secret, in part because the Presidio Trust and the National Park Service fear that nature-lovers seeking to see the rare wild Manzanita might trample it to death.
This nursery normally sells Franciscan manzanita.
It is a bit complicated. Hooker’s manzanita is a shrub indigenous to the San Franciso Bay Area with several subspecies. One of these subspecies, Franciscan manzanita, was thought to be “extinct in the wild.”
It, nonetheless, survived in cultivation in yards and gardens, and could be purchased from nurseries at modest prices.
Doubtless, the extinction “in the wild” of the subspecies specifically associated with San Francisco has a lot to do with the reduction of the extent of “the wild” in an intensely developed, densely populated urban center.
So, having found an example flourishing in what the authorities choose to define as the wild, those same authorities with the characteristic wisdom and fiscal responsibility concluded that pompous, heroic (and very costly) measures had to be taken to save the contextually-precious plant.
No one in authority noticed that all this was complete madness.