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Three Utah Plants Take Spots in Federal Waiting Line

February 23, 2011
Nicole Rosmarino 303-573-4898 x1163
In This Release
Wildlife   Frisco clover
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Three Utah Plants Take Spots in Federal Waiting Line

Plants First Recognized To Be In Trouble in the 1980s
Contact: Nicole Rosmarino 303-573-4898 x1163

Washington, DC-Feb. 23. U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar publisheda decision in today’s Federal Register that three Utah plants – Friscobuckwheat, Frisco clover, and Ostler’s peppergrass – warrant protection(listing) under the Endangered Species Act, but he declined actual protection,citing higher priorities. The decision comes in response to a July 2007petition filed by WildEarth Guardians and a 1975 petition by the Smithsonian.Unfortunately, the plants will receive no federal safeguards until they areactually listed as endangered or threatened. All three plants were firstrecognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as warranting federallisting in the 1980s.

“These plants have been waiting for federal protection for decades.Legal safeguards are not only long past due – they are urgently required, inthe face of growing threats,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.

There are now 259 species of plants and wildlifethat are formal “candidates” awaiting federal listing. Over 80 percent ofthese species were first recognized as needing federal protection more than adecade ago, including the 3 Utah plants. Outside of Hawaii, Salazar has listedonly 4 new U.S. species under the Act since taking office. At the currentpace, it would take a century to get through the backlog of candidate speciesin the continental U.S.

Two conservation groups working to protect these plants – WildEarthGuardians and the Utah Native Plant Society – applaud the federal government’srecognition that the plants need Endangered Species Act protection. Theyfurther urge the government to actually list them under this law. Until theyare listed, the plants will not benefit from the ESA’s shield.

“These three highly restricted, unique cushion plant endemics in thevicinity of the San Francisco Mountains have long been known to be among the most rare and threatened species inUtah’s West Desert. By obtaining somefederal recognition, it will encourage (but not restrict) private landowners towork cooperatively to protect their limited habitats and avoid extinction,”said Tony Frates, conservation co-chair and Utah rare plant guide coordinatorfor the Utah Native Plant Society.

FWS determined that the 3 Utah plants designated as ESA candidates todayare threatened by habitat destruction from precious metal and gravel mining,which is likely to increase in the future; the spread of cheatgrass, which canboth outcompete these native endemics and lead to increased wildfire; increaseddrought conditions due to climate change; vulnerability from small, isolatedpopulations; and inadequate legal protections from these threats.

Frisco buckwheat (Eriogonumsoredium) is a perennial buckwheat that grows up to 1.6 inches tall and19.7 inches across. Its numerous flowers are white or partially pink; it bloomsfrom June to August. Its habitat is Ordovician limestone outcrops. Thisbuckwheat occurs only at 4 sites on private land in the southern San FranciscoMountains in Beaver County, Utah.

Ostler’s peppergrass (Lepidiumostleri) is a perennial mustard that grows up to 2 inches tall. Its flowersare white to cream and may have a purplish hue; it blooms from June to earlyJuly. This plant co-occurs with the Frisco buckwheat and is also only knownfrom Utah’s San Franciso Mountains.

Frisco clover (Trifolium friscanum)is a perennial legume that grows up to 1.2 inches tall. Its flowers are shapedlike other clover species and are reddish-purplish; it blooms from late May toJune. This clover’s habitat is also limited to small areas within the SanFrancisco, Wah Wah Mountains and Blue Mountain in Utah’s Millard and BeaverCounties Utah, with only five known locations on these mountain ranges. 71% ofthe plants are found at just 2 locations.

These plants were first recognized as in need of federal safeguards in abygone era of American history: in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan served two terms asU.S. president; Mikhail Gorbachev headed up the USSR (and later received theNobel Peace Prize for ending the Cold War); Blondie and Prince topped theBillboard Chart; and tennis star Serena Williams was born.

In today’s decision, Secretary Salazar rejected federal listing for twoother Utah plants, Hamilton milkvetch (Astragalushamiltonii) and Flowers’ penstemon (Penstemonflowersii) but invited the public to submit additional informationregarding the status of these species. The groups remain concerned about thismilkvetch and penstemon and plan to submit additional information to FWS tofurther make the case for legal protection.

For background information, including the 2007petition which prompted today’s finding, contact Nicole Rosmarino at nrosmarino@wildearthguardians.org or 505-699-7404.

Tony Frates, UtahNative Plant Society, 801-277-9240, unps@unps.org


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“These plants have been waiting for federal protection for decades. Legal safeguards are not only long past due – they are urgently required, in the face of growing threats,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.