The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has proposed (pdf) downlisting the Santa Cruz cypress (Hesperocyparis abramsiana; previously listed as Cupressus abramsiana) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Service originally listed the Santa Cruz cypress as endangered in 1987, citing development-related threats to the species’ habitat as the reason for its decline. Officials also noted that alterations in the natural pattern of wildfires were having an adverse impact on the species’ population, as the Santa Cruz cypress relies on wildfires for its reproductive cycle. At the time the Santa Cruz cypress was listed as endangered, officials estimated that as few as 2,300 individuals remained.

The Service now estimates that between 33,000 and 44,000 individuals are living in five separate populations in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties. Nearly all of the individuals occur on lands managed for conservation by public and private entities. As a result, the Service concluded that development-related threats to the Santa Cruz cypress were negligible, and that the criteria for downlisting the species had been met. However, the Service determined that altered wildfire patterns were likely to continue impacting the long-term persistence of the Santa Cruz cypress, and as a result, federal protection under the ESA was still required.