San Luis Obispo receives conservation awards for protecting endangered plant

San Luis Obispo and its former natural resources manager have received conservation awards from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for efforts to protect a federally endangered plant known only to exist in the hillslopes of western San Luis Obispo County.

The Chorro Creek bog thistle grows in seeps and springs in serpentine soil and rock and can be found in the Laguna Lake Natural Reserve, Irish Hills Natural Reserve and Reservoir Canyon Natural Reserve.

By working with private landowners, San Luis Obispo officials have established more than 3,500 acres of voluntary conservation easements to protect habitat for the Chorro Creek bog thistle, a federally endangered plant, and other native plants and wildlife, according to the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office.

The city also worked to establish 14 open-space preserves totaling 3,700 acres, including eight sites where the Chorro Creek bog thistle is known to exist. The preserves also provide habitat for the federally endangered Indian Knob mountainbalm.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx and Neil Havlik, who worked for San Luis Obispo from 1996 to 2012, accepted the awards for natural resource stewardship and endangered plant conservation at the council’s Dec. 15 meeting from Chris Kofron, senior biologist and recovery permit coordinator with the service’s Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office.

“It really belongs to the city,” Havlik said as he accepted the award. “I was just doing my job, but it was a job that I loved.”

Cynthia Lambert: 805-781-7929, @ClambertSLO