"We haven't focused our efforts on the hotspots in developed countries, although we believe such areas are truly important," says Hoffmann. "We've chosen to work in developing countries. We'd like to think that developed countries would take care of their hotspots themselves."
The California Floristic Province faces grave threats, as do four other hotspots with a Mediterranean climate (hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters)—parts of Chile, Australia, and South Africa, and, not surprisingly, the Mediterranean basin. The reason? "They're all beautiful places with wonderful climates, and people want to live in them," says Rebecca Shaw of the Nature Conservancy in San Francisco. "So all these regions tend to face the same problems: fragmentation of habitats, urbanization, and the expansion of agriculture."
California alone, already the most populous state in the country, expects ten million new residents in the next 25 years. "Planning for growth is truly our biggest problem," says Shaw. "Yet, unlike some other regions, there is high awareness about how important environmental protection is, from the people to the legislature."
California has protected 20 percent of its land—a percentage second only to Alaska. The catch: Most reserves are set aside based on scenic values (in high elevations) and lowest economic impact, not on saving the most biodiversity. In fact, only a tiny percentage of the areas where California's hotspot species live is protected.
Above the lush hedges of Rancho Mirage, bighorn sheep continue to turn back at the sight of the fence. But Guy Wagner knows the fence alone will not save this population of sheep. Housing and golf course developments continue to chip away at the valley floor, as do homes and hiking and riding trails in the mountains. "We're pushing the sheep into a narrow band of habitat," Wagner says, "one that doesn't include enough browse for them on the alluvial fans or escape routes up the slopes. Will they survive? It's going to take some tough choices."