By Mark Kleis
Monday, Apr 16th, 2012 @ 5:54 am
 
When newly-elected President Barack Obama spoke in 2008 of the need for "shovel ready" jobs to be created with taxpayer funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus bill), this probably wasn't the kind of work the President had in mind.

Reports are making their way around political blogs and news reels alike concerning the discovery of a controversial $205,000-plus expenditure that took place in 2009 and 2010 in San Francisco that used funds from several state and federal sources including the stimulus bill.

That expenditure stemmed from the discovery of Arctostaphylos franciscana, otherwise known as the Franciscan Manzanita bush, which was located in the median of a strip of roadway adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge destined to be renovated as part of a larger $1.045 billion project partially funded by the federal stimulus bill. As it turns out, the plant had been believed to have gone extinct in the wild some 62 years ago, prompting the decision to trans-locate the plant to another location where it could thrive the wild.

Doing so required Caltrans, the state's transportation department, to front $79,470 in order to "fund the establishment, nurturing, and monitoring of the Mother Plant" for a period of up to 10 years, an additional $100,000 for the plant's "hard removal" and an extra $25,605 for "reporting requirements" to take place over the next decade. Information released to the public last week reveals that the plant was dug up, loaded onto a truck, transported to a new destination and re-planted for $205,075.

Although the Franciscan Manzanita bush was believed to be the last one in the wild, nurseries sell a farm-grown version for $15. However, a trio of ecological organizations - the Wild Equity Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Native Plant Society worked together in 2009 to get the wild bush protected under the Endangered Species Act.

A 2010 report says that the Franciscan Manzanita is "thriving" in a location with similar soil properties to its native habitat.


(Photo: Michael Chasse/National Park Service.)