"A breeze stirs the silence at Joshua Tree National Park as a red-tailed hawk takes flight from the spiky arm of one of the namesake plants in search of breakfast.
It's a scene that national parks protector Mike Cipra has witnessed many times. Still, he can't contain his enthusiasm on this early morning outing, despite the gloomy topic he's discussing with a visitor -- the probable extinction of the Joshua tree in the park that bears its name.
The ancient plants are dying in the park, the southern-most boundary of their limited growing region, scientists say. Already finicky reproducers, Joshua trees are the victim of global warming and its symptoms -- including fire and drought -- plus pollution and the proliferation of non-native plants. Experts expect the Joshuas to vanish entirely from the southern half of the state within a century. "
Janet Zimmerman reports for the Riverside Press-Enterprise June 20, 2009.