Shovel This: Your Government Spent $205,000 to Move a $16 Shrub

They thought it was extinct. Other than probably millions of the same shrub living in yards all over the place, they were right.

“In October 2009, an ecologist identified a plant growing in a concrete-bound median strip along Doyle Drive in the Presidio as Arctostaphylos franciscana,” the U.S. Department of Interior reported in the Aug. 10, 2010 edition of the Federal Register. “The plant’s location was directly in the footprint of a roadway improvement project designed to upgrade the seismic and structural integrity of the south access to the Golden Gate Bridge.

“The translocation of the Arctostaphylos franciscana plant to an active native plant management area of the Presidio was accomplished, apparently successfully and according to plan, on January 23, 2010,” the Interior Department reported.

The bush—a Franciscan manzanita—was a specimen of a commercially cultivated species of shrub that can be purchased from nurseries for as little as $15.98 per plant. The particular plant in question, however, was discovered in the midst of the City of San Francisco, in the median strip of a highway, and was deemed to be the last example of the species in the “wild.”

Prior to the discovery of this “wild” Franciscan manzanita, the plant had been considered extinct for as long as 62 years--extinct, that is, outside of people’s yards and botanical gardens.

So they dug it up, and they moved it to an undisclosed location, and put a fence around it, and are paying labs to create offspring that will undoubtedly show up in the hedges of government offices from one coast to the other.