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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

NEVADA FWO: Conserving Monte Neva Paintbrush

Region 8, October 30, 2012
Sarah Kulpa, Service botanist, surveys for Monte Neva paintbrush.
Sarah Kulpa, Service botanist, surveys for Monte Neva paintbrush. - Photo Credit: n/a
Monte Nevaa paintbrush
Monte Nevaa paintbrush - Photo Credit: n/a

By Jeannie Stafford, Public Affairs

Monte Neva paintbrush (Castilleja salsuginosa) is a member of the Orobanchaceae (broomrape) family. It can be up to seven inches tall and is probably somewhat parasitic, deriving some of its sustenance from another plant. The entire plant, including the flower, is mostly purplish-brownish. It is restricted to damp, open alkaline clay soils on travertine hot-spring mounds.

Monte Neva paintbrush is endemic to Nevada (only occurs here) and known from only two locations: Hot Springs Hill in Eureka County and Monte Neva Hot Springs in Steptoe Valley in White Pine County. Because the Monte Neva paintbrush has a small population size and restricted distribution, it is very susceptible to changes in its habitat. For instance, the Hot Springs Hill population’s greatest threat is from changes in groundwater level and/or changes in geothermal spring discharge because of its reliance on geothermal deposits. Other threats to this tiny plant include heavy trampling by livestock and wild horses, off-road vehicle recreation, and jackrabbit herbivory.

In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified the Monte Neva paintbrush as a Spotlight Species and outlined measures that would improve its population numbers and distribution. These measures included long-term demographic monitoring, protective fencing of populations, seed collection and storage, and development of a conservation agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

In 2012, a Cooperative Range Improvement Agreement was signed by BLM, the Service, and Nevada Natural Heritage Program to fence three acres at Hot Springs Hill and develop a monitoring protocol for this species. The Service and partners are hopeful that these conservation measures will preclude a need to consider the Monte Neva paintbrush for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act in the future.

Contact Info: Jeannie Stafford, 775-861-6300, jeannie_stafford@fws.gov