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Federal Government Reopens Critical Habitat Comments for Pecos Sunflower

December 11, 2007
Albuquerque Journal
In This Release
The federal government has reopened a public comment period for a proposal to designate critical habitat in New Mexico and West Texas for the threatened Pecos sunflower.

A draft analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assesses potential economic effects to local environments and communities due to conservation actions for the plant. The analysis notes that some costs are likely regardless of whether critical habitat is designated because they’re associated with the fact the sunflower is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The analysis looks at potential costs in wetland development, livestock management, road maintenance and how nonnative species are treated. The document estimates costs to conserve the flower and the proposed critical habitat at $3.9 million to $4.4 million between 2007 and 2026.

The deadline for submitting comments is Jan. 10, 2008.

“We are looking for additional scientific and commercial information that is relevant to the proposed critical habitat designation for this threatened plant,” said Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest regional director for Fish and Wildlife. “We also see this process as an opportunity to inform the public about the effects of conservation efforts on local environments, communities and economics.”

Last March, the agency proposed designating five areas totaling about 1,579 acres as critical habitat. It has revised that proposal to expand one area and clarify the boundaries of another, bringing the total acreage to 5,745 acres in Chaves, Cibola, Guadalupe, Socorro and Valencia counties in New Mexico and Pecos County in Texas.

The showy sunflower, a threatened species since 1999, survives in fewer than two dozen known locations in the desert wetlands of New Mexico and West Texas.

Critical habitat means areas with features essential to conserve a species and which may require special management consideration or protection. Such a designation does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge or preserve, and has no impact on landowners taking actions on their property that don’t require federal funds or permits.

Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Journal – Reprinted with permission

Read the Federal Register “Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for the Pecos Sunflower (Helianthus paradoxus)”