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Climate Change May Threaten Iconic Joshua Tree, Group Petitions To Protect It

Joshua Tree
(Photo by Joshua Tree National Park - Flickr)
Visitors hike in Joshua Tree National Park.

WildEarth Guardians, an environmental protection group, is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Joshua tree as a threatened species.

The desert tree is a member of the agave family and can be found in western Arizona. Taylor Jones, with WildEarth Guardians, said climate change, increased wildfires and summer droughts jeopardize the desert tree’s future.

“It’s already hard to be a Joshua tree," Jones said. "They reproduce very slowly, lot of factors need to come together in just the right way, and climate change is wreaking havoc with that balance.”

Joshua trees, according to the National Park Service, need well-timed rains and cold winters to bloom and grow branches, so climate change affects their growth. Jones also said the trees should be preserved because of their iconic and striking features. “I remember looking out over this bizarre moonscape full of what looked like characters out of Dr. Suess, and that experience was so amazing I would not want to see that disappear," she said. "I want to preserve the potential for other people to have that experience."

The USFWS has 90 days to respond to the petition and either look into the issue or decide the Joshua tree doesn't need protection.

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.