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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 

January 26, 2006

Contacts:  Laura Romin, 801-975-3330 ext.142
                   Heather Barnes, 801-975-3330 ext 158
                   Diane Katzenberger, 303-236-4578

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Will Not Conduct In-Depth Review to Consider Listing the Mussentuchit Gilia

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reviewed a petition to list the Mussentuchit Gilia, an herb found in central Utah, under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and has concluded that the petition did not contain substantial scientific information to indicate that listing is warranted at this time. 

 The Service made this finding in response to a petition received in March 2004 from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for Native Ecosystems, and the Utah Native Plant Society to list the Mussentuchit gilia as a threatened or endangered species.

 “The Service will continue to monitor the population status, trends and ongoing management actions important to the conservation of the Mussentuchit gilia,” said Mitch King, the Service’s Acting Director of the Mountain-Prairie Region, “and we encourage interested parties to continue to assist in these conservation efforts.”

The Mussentuchit gilia (Aliciella tenuis) is a naturally rare plant found in southwestern Emery, southeastern Sevier, and northern Wayne Counties, Utah. Found primarily on Federal lands, the plant’s range spans about 45 miles from its South Desert population in Waterpocket Fold within Capitol Reef National Park to the Secret Mesa population in the San Rafael Swell. The largest concentrations are found on sandstone ledges and cracks and in rock fragments at the base of cliffs and slopes. Most population sites are difficult to access due to steep treacherous terrain.

 The petition claims the Mussentuchit gilia is threatened by oil, gas, and mineral extraction activities; livestock trampling; off-road vehicle use, recreational activities, and invasive weeds. In making this finding, the Service evaluated whether these and other factors could affect the long-term survival of the plant.

 The petition provides some information regarding oil and gas production in the San Rafael Swell, but does not present substantial information that this development has resulted in losses or threatens to result in losses of the Mussentuchit gilia. Much of the information identifies potential impacts rather than actual impacts, and there is no evidence indicating impacts from oil, gas, and mineral to known populations.

 The petition describes various impacts associated with livestock and grazing management that could affect the Mussentuchit gilia. While Bureau of Land Management lands permitting grazing may contain populations of the plant, cattle cannot access the majority of the occupied sites and trampling has not been recorded as occurring at known sites.

 Since most populations of the plant are found in locations difficult to access, located mostly on steep, treacherous terrain on side slopes, in rock cracks, or on ridges away from trails or roads, there are very few known sites that are accessible by the general public for recreational activities.

 The petition did not provide substantial information that clearly documents that areas impacted by invasive weeds are areas where Mussentuchit gilia plants are found. Native plants are the dominant species found at Mussentuchit gilia sites rather than exotic weeds or grasses.

 Surveys conducted by an interagency-sponsored plant team, indicate there are seven known populations of Mussentuchit gilia. One population is found in Capitol Reef National Park and is fully protected. The Bureau of Land Management manages the majority of the remaining sites and has designated the Mussentuchit gilia as a special status species. Additionally, all populations of the plant are included in the Central Utah Navajo Sandstone Endemics Conservation Strategy and Agreement, a multi-year joint project by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service which is to be completed in 2006. This will provide an additional level of protection for current sites and those found in the future.

 The ESA provides for citizens to petition the Service to take listing actions, including adding species to the list of threatened and endangered wildlife and plants as well as removing species from the list. The Service is required to make a 90-day finding on whether the petition presents substantial information that the petitioned action may be warranted.

 This finding was prepared pursuant to a court-approved settlement resulting from a lawsuit filed against the Service by the petitioners.

 In addition to reviewing the petition, the Service examined information that was contained in its files or readily available.

For more information, refer to the published finding in today’s Federal Register.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

 - FWS -

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